High-speed rail, media fail?

Those who ignore the power of the media to shape the debate on a major issue do so at their peril. A current example is the new high-speed rail link being proposed between London and northern England. Having been proposed by Labour, it is supported by all three main political parties, and sounds like a thoroughly good thing, for those of us who believe it is important for the UK to improve its infrastructure to compete internationally. However there are of course a number of ‘antis’, including some rail industry commentators, and quite understandably those who live on the line of the route. This month’s Rail magazine, in a strongly-worded editorial makes the point that there has been a deafening silence in the media from the railway industry ‘pros’, with no campaign to present the range of benefits, apart from the Transport Minister himself. This has left the ‘antis’ to seize control of the debate, led by one or two vocal media-friendly pundits. No-one is speaking on behalf of the railway industry, which has much to gain, so their case may be lost by default if the ‘accepted wisdom’ among readers, viewers and listeners comes to be that the high-speed proposals are poorly formulated and too expensive, and politicians looking for cost savings go lukewarm on the idea. Indeed this is already starting to happen, with the shadow transport secretary now admitting there may not be enough money in the pot’. Come on and wake up, railway supporters!

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