Thursday, 19 September 2013

Off the rails with Richard Florida!

One of ScotRail's super-fast trains
You know, last week one of my fans alerted me to an important thought chunk from celebrity academic, world renowned genius and thought leader Richard Florida. Obviously, my recent commentary on the depressing continental rail travel experience in Denmark - compared to the diesel wonders and impeccable customer care of ScotRail - marked me out as a great thinker on regional transport infrastructure.

Richard Florida appeared on BBC television to wax lyrical about the benefits of high speed rail.  He thinks that central Scotland has what it takes to be one of the world's forty mega-regions. Rubbish! Obviously he has not taken Aberdeen into account and certainly the idea of a high speed rail link between Aberdeen and Peterhead is the sort of thing that might get some folk excited. It could be a hole-in-one for Dr Donald Trump's God's Own Golf Course or a drive straight into the rough. I imagine that most of Dr Donald's clients arrive by Rolls Royce so even a high speed train wouldn't get much traction.  In other words it would be nothing to get steamed up about. You can't have rich and intelligent folk mixing with hairy-arsed drunks off the rigs or with farmers travelling into Aberdeen with their favourite sheep on the seat beside them.

But wait! Why does Scotland need to mimic European countries and embrace the me-too mentality of latte and capoochinoe? Why can't we be the only country in Europe without high speed rail - apart from England? That would make us distinctive, with a real identity. Planners talk so much rubbish about identity - don't they? I know I do! But there are easier ways of achieving this than doing something involved, complicated and expensive. Why not do nothing instead? Just leave it all to market forces! It's cheap! No more Capital Programme or Best Value. No Single Outcome Agreement. This could draw a line under the dubious practice of 'enabling' once and for all. This could be an alternative future for lazy and incompetent council planners.

I'll tell you one thing though - who needs a train? The private sector would jump at the chance of providing a little country bus running between Aberdeen and Peterhead - it could be a real winner - or even a Feature! Recalling the days of Wells Fargo, important businessmen could board the bus at a new transport interchange on the site of what once was Union Terrace Gardens and take their time over their porridge and a slap-up breakfast as the bus slowly headed north from the hub of the Scottish economy to the edge of civilisation itself. Or even beyond civilisation to Fraserburgh itself - the town that was the inspiration for the 1960s television science fiction series The Outer Limits. That's just one of my great ideas - I have many more!

So I appeal to planners not to be fixated with high speed rail transport or with Richard Florida, even though he is a thought leader, consultant and guru. It's just a quicker way of getting nowhere - especially if the destination is Fraserburgh. It has now become clear that most local authority planners are best suited to doing nothing - it's their natural modus operandi - so my advice to them is to just relax and let the days go by.  Soon you will all be made redundant anyway.

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