Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Not in my back yard?
I met a NIMBY at the weekend. A village over from the area I grew up in, the Government want to build a new high speed rail line. One day this will carry passengers from the North and Midlands down to London at a couple of hundred miles per hour and thence connect to the European high speed network. It's an important development that will shorten journey times within the UK, make international travel a lot easier and remove the need for a lot of short-haul internal flights with their attendant pollution. Of benefit to all, you might say.
My Sunday afternoon was spent loading my mother's dog into the car and taking a short drive to a pleasant spot at which to exercise the mutt. This happened to be the piece of countryside through which the rail line is planned to pass along the route of a former main line railway closed in the 1960s. The Great Central Railway was the last of the Victorian main lines, it never achieved its full potential because it didn't really go anywhere useful. It did however have the benefit of being built late enough in the railway age to have been designed with higher speed in mind and this has made its surviving earthworks of interest to today's planners. As it stands now it is a corridor of woodland through the countryside providing a fantastic wildlife habitat and it's been a favourite place of mine to visit for years.
The locals are all pretty upset about the project. One I know slightly from way back was spitting feathers, to put it mildly. House prices, noise, blight, no benefit to him, Gordon Brown's final revenge on the countryside, we already have perfectly good trains, the rant went on. I nodded sympathetically and continued on my way. Since I know he's partial to the occasional skiing holiday I wondered to myself how long it would be before he boarded a high speed train to the Alps.
The trouble is, though I can see beyond the near horizon and appreciate the wider benefit of the high speed railway I will be very sad to see the current unruly tangle of undergrowth destroyed. I'm not bothered about the railway itself, I've lived near a main line and I'm sure my NIMBY whose house is a couple of miles from it will not find it to be anywhere near as bad as he fears. I just hope once the construction is over that the wildlife can return.
I spent a while clambouring over the brickwork of a bridge that took the railway over a small stream, my mother's dog looking extremely bored nearby. Stamped into each coping brick is the mark pictured, complete with the date of construction. Seventy years, not long for a railway to last.