Putting a spokesman in high speed wheels

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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For a third time in three weeks the lines laid down here concern our railways (Lines? Railways? Get it? Oh, go back to sleeper).

By circumstance not design, it must be stressed.

Between station collapses (of passengers - me, specifically - not buildings) and explosive derailment, the network has loomed large on my horizon since early January.

Last week, of course, it arrived to train on everyone’s parade via news of HS2 route proposals to help wing future generations in and out of the capital quicker.

Everyone, that is, who pays tax and is hereby cordially invited to cough up a grand+ at no discernible benefit to themselves. In some cases - those where infrastructure will physically impinge on their home - with negative outcomes assured.

Everyone, in other words, not resident in a location served conveniently by this plunderous project.

The vast majority of people living in Lancashire, to name but a few hundred thousand. A view forcefully challenged by “regional lobby” HS2 North West.

According to their spokesman, the £32bn route will boost our economy to the tune of £44bn and create more than 40,000 new jobs.

Curiously, however, no named members on behalf of whom this spokesman spoke - in newspapers regionwide, including this one - can readily be identified.

Although HS2 NW apparently “works closely” with various chambers of commerce, in terms of HS2 NW itself, my arguably limited research tends to suggest that HS2 NW is, essentially, a bloke in Cheshire called Chris. That it is a not-for-profit operation is all one can satisfactorily confirm, Chris (Howe) being campaign director (and former manager of the national YestoHS2 campaign).

Obviously, while there still exist countless enthusiasts - thank our lucky stars - across Britain, it is mere regrettable modern political reflex to suspect some discreet interested party or other is picking up the tab to push an agenda.

Happens all the time, notably the various covert fronts Big Oil routinely uses to counter claims of man-made climate change.

Lacking any wisdom in this regard, though, we can only fairly conclude that sometimes, what we see is all there is.

And what we see is Chris.

A one-man-band on what might appear to be a personal crusade. And this being so, good luck to him.

Why not? If HS2 springs him out of bed with a sense of purpose who’s to knock it?

Just bear this in mind next time we hear from a ‘spokesman’ for this ‘campaign’ or ‘regional lobby’.

In all likelihood that nameless figure will be Chris, and the ‘man’ he ‘spokes’ for will be Chris, and Chris alone.