Thursday 19 July 2012
Letter 75: On the wrong track about rail, employment & infrastructure
Yippee!" I thought. Listening to the news has been such hard going recently, I was relieved hear about your plans for our transport system. How brilliant - a £9 billion package of spending, involving extensive electrification, creating a world class rail network. Nearly enough to distract me from the IMF downgrading the forecast for UK growth. Nearly - but not quite. To be fair, it was quite hard to feel upbeat when I realised that we've been downgraded more than any other developed nation. What does it mean exactly, the IMF forecasting growth at just 0.2%? That Ed Balls is telling the truth? Your economic plan has failed and the cuts are too much, too fast? Or that he's right when he says the recession means that borrowing is now going up?
I consoled myself with the promise of the "electric spine" you unveiled on Monday, but began to feel quite shortchanged when it became obvious that:
a) Half the package is new schemes, many of which will not start until at least 2014.
b) Passengers get to pay for the overhaul.
Have you thought it through? By increasing ticket costs won't you be pricing poorer people off the railways and shouldn't you really be making the shareholders pay for infrastructure?
I decided to keep on looking till I found a good news story and then, along it came: the announcement that this morning employment has risen by one hundred and eighty one thousand - marvellous! But hold on, I spoke too soon; by noon I'd read an article in The Telegraph which leads me to believe that those figures are skewed. They include people on Government supported training schemes, newly (desperately) self-employed and those doing unpaid work. No boom, just figures massaged and I'm left feeling cross and shortchanged all over again. So, I've decided to give George and Danny's launch of their infrastructure plan a miss, as I'm not sure I can cope with the disappointment.
Yours, with best wishes, etc"