The September Seasonal Area page is online. The picture was taken three years ago on the first Annual Stupidly Long Walk around the Forest of Dean. It shows Mallards Pike on a rather warm and sunny morning; the day finished with me staggering in a dehydrated state onto Parkend station at around 3pm after starting out at 7am. The walk also took in Cannop Ponds, Speech House lake and the Blackpool Brook valley up from Blakeney.
It was a particularly relaxed and happy day, all in all.
The Government has now had a reshuffle and the result is the third Transport Secretary in three years. (The Torygraph goes back a bit further and makes him the eighth in eight years.) There is a strange irony that the Government department most involved in long-term large infrastructure projects requiring stability is the one that has the highest turnover of Cabinet representatives.
On the other paw, the only long-term ones that I can think of were Alistair Darling, John Prescott and Ernest Marples. Marples showed what a six-year tenure can be used for and almost single-handedly redesigned the British transport network for probably the next century, though not necessarily for the best. Prescott forgot to do anything remotely memorable. Darling did lots of memorable things, all described either as “cancellation” or “de-scoping”. (De-scoping is not really a word. It is merely a term invented to describe deciding that upgrading the West Coast Mainline as much as you agreed to is impossible so you’re just going to patch it back together until it sort of works again rather than complete the original project.)
The previous Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP, had pledged that (in accordance with her party’s manifesto) she would not expand Heathrow Airport. Her replacement has not made such a pledge, so according to the BBC’s Nick Robinson is free to do so.
Free to do so?
The population of a large part of London voted on the basis that the Tories had promised in the election that they would not expand Heathrow Airport and knock everyone’s houses over. The idea that a Cabinet reshuffle makes that pledge null and void absolutely stinks.
If George Osborne is desperate to prove his growth credentials by knocking houses over to make way for major infrastructure schemes, there are 16 houses in Quant Park, Tavistock, which can be knocked over at much less expense (financial and political) to make way for improved local rail links. That will improve the economy of the country outside the South-East. Expanding Heathrow will allow more Chinese businesspeople on their way to New York to sign business deals (or, more likely, New York bankers on their way to China to sign business deals) to buy a pasty in Heathrow while changing planes. Since the Government cut back on the pasty tax, this won’t even help cut the deficit.
(Quant Park, Tavistock, is a collection of houses which a planner particularly determined to build on old railway stations managed to fit onto the west end of Tavistock North station, an intermediate stop on the London and South Western’s Withered Arm mainline between Exeter and Plymouth. It is the only sizeable block on re-opening the route and has condemned the re-opening scheme to a station in a field on the outskirts of town. Once Quant Park and the West Devon District Council offices are removed, the only other blocks on re-opening are the condition of Meldon Viaduct near Okehampton and capacity problems in the South-Western’s terminus at London Waterloo. To the left of the picture are the station building and Down platform canopy while the houses on the right are squeezed onto the Up platform.)
In any event Osborne’s already pledged to knock over lots of houses in Camden and brass off the Metropolitan Railway’s commuters (who all seem to have been taken in by the Metropolitan’s over-enthusiastic marketing department) to build High Speed 2, so why he should want to upset another flank of London is beyond me. Unless, of course, he’s planning on cancelling High Speed 2.
At which point the bloke is a prat liable to strangle the economy of most of the country north of Watford, including his own (happily doomed) constituency, and I want him found and thrown out of the Cabinet.