Tuesday 5 November 2013

Agreeing with the opposition 2

Following on from Friday’s post, the second story in Thursday’s Western Mail leading me to agree with a comment from an unusual quarter was this opinion piece by Stephen Crabb.  The devil is in the detail, however.
His core argument – the bit that I agree with – is that we should see major transport infrastructure investment not just in narrow terms about what Wales does or does not get, but as a wider question of vision for the future.  A proper transport infrastructure does not stop at, nor is it confined to, national borders or jurisdictions. 
It’s a pity, however, that he seems to see the issue merely in terms of which borders confine the vision.  He attacks insular politics in Wales but seems to want to replace a narrow focus on Wales with a narrow focus on the UK, seeing everything from a London-centric viewpoint.
The two biggest concerns that I have had about HS2 from the outset are: firstly that it’s been looked at as a stand-alone investment, rather than a first step (HS2 isn’t a network, as he described it, it’s a line – I only wish that it were indeed part of a network); and secondly, that using a different London terminus from that used by HS1 creates an artificial and unnecessary break in a European network.
Whilst Crabb and the UK parties – to whatever extent they still support the project – are looking solely at transport within the UK, the rest of continental Europe is busy building an integrated high speed network allowing direct connections across the continent.  Now that is truly a vision freed of Crabb’s insular politics (using insular in its more literal meaning).  And it recognises that building a line through one country can often benefit another; joint planning is key.
For a nationalist wanting to see Wales taking her place as a European nation, the link to Brussels is every bit as important as the link to London, which from this perspective is merely a stop along the route.  An important stop, sure, but just a stop all the same.

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