There is a subtle irony in the juxtaposition of your editorial (The Guardian view on the future of rail: Managed sinking not far to go, May 29) and John Harris’ article on Milton Keynes’ success story (want to see where British politics) decide the future? Go to Milton Keynes, May 29).
They remind readers that there will be a “referendum” over the summer to determine the location of the future headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR), which will replace Network Rail and oversee both services and infrastructure. Network Rail may be headquartered in London, but its operational headquarters are in Milton Keynes, where it serves as a major national hub for engineering, infrastructure, support services and national schedules, and is the city’s largest and most prominent employer, with around 5,000 employees. It is located in a wonderful modern building next to the main train station.
Harris notes that Milton Keynes possesses an “air of modernity” and exudes “a cheerful, light-footed original spirit” – exactly the kind of traits that a country in desperate need of renewal would advocate.
The decision to locate GBR’s headquarters in one of the other bidding cities to become their home would be open to the swine policy this government is so drawn to, and it should mean those 5,000 jobs and the ideal building in which employees in Milton Keynes are at risk Repetition.
If the former Network Rail Center in Milton Keynes is not chosen as the new national headquarters for GBR, it also means that the new town will be deliberately settled so that the Secretary of Transportation can boast about the settlement elsewhere. This would be a colossal waste of public money and a deliberate destruction of the Milton Keynes model so convincingly defined by John Harris.
John Harris’s otherwise thought-out article was marred by cheap, ill-considered nonsense on the Crossrail account. “Imagine how much money will be spent on Elizabeth’s new London line – $19 billion at last count.
You don’t have to imagine that, John. Just go to Woolwich (and many other places along Crossrail) and you’ll see the impact that new, well-planned transport links can have when they help transform previously underserved and poorly connected areas. The two should not be seen as a conflict.
What is needed is a return to the visual strategic planning—which includes housing, transportation, and other social, economic and environmental needs—that produced both Milton Keynes and the Elizabeth Line, and which, if continued over time, across the country could yield benefits.
President of the Urban and Rural Planning Association and former Vice President of Crossrail
John Harris’ enthusiasm for Milton Keynes is misplaced. It was built at a disastrously low density, which makes public transportation uneconomical, maintains reliance on the car and wastes our scarce farmland. At a time of escalating climate and food crises, building more car-dependent urban sprawl in Europe’s most populous country – which already imports a third of its food needs – is not a solution to the housing crisis.
Smart Growth UK