Monday, 24 July 2017

Review: Signal Failure

Signal Failure Signal Failure by Tom Jeffreys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One November morning Tom Jeffreys’ lifts his overloaded rucksack onto his back and starts walking the 119 miles to Birmingham from Euston Station with the intention of seeing for himself the effects the proposed new HS2 railway route will have on our country and landscape. High Speed 2 (HS2) is the new railway that will link London to Birmingham with further extensions planned to Leeds and Manchester. Even though the construction has been approved by parliament, the exact details of the route have not been finalised and are still open to modification and a fair amount of objection from residents. Supposedly work will begin this year…

He will pass out of the dynamic cityscape of London, onto what feels like the endless sprawl of suburbia and into the patchwork of fields and copses that make up our green and pleasant land. On the way he will meet locals who think it is a good idea, some who are so despondent with the plans that it has driven them to contemplate suicide, conservationists who are horrified with the impact on the wildlife and ancient woodland, which someone with a spreadsheet thinks can be just replanted with no ill effects… On the walk he hurts his knee, gets lost several times even really close to his home, consumes several pints in a variety of pubs, camps in fields and back gardens and gets spooked by a horse.

Jeffreys’ has blended the narrative of his walk, along with the history of the route with a contemporary view of the natural world that will be affected. He has been inspired by some fine authors, including Macfarlane and Jamie and it is written with wit and self-depreciating humour all the way through. More importantly this book is a polemic against the project that has really become a white elephant. It has reached such a momentum now that we are at the point where no one wants to stop and say – do we actually need this? Part of that is because of the vested interests of those that stand to make a lot of money from it and partly from those in charge who have a lot of political capital invested in it, was not surprised to read that some MP’s that have supported the project have managed to ensure that the route does not pass through their constituency. A sizable proportion of those he meets on the walk are not convinced that it is needed, many who are upset are those have moved out from the city to the relative peace of the countryside and are not looking forward to the construction nor the high speed trains running. However, there are some who think it is a good idea and will bring benefits. Definitely worth reading if you are concerned about the impact of the route.

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