There is a bitter resentment towards the proposed High Speed 2 rail network being proposed by the government. Some say that it is a waste of money, some say it is too far off from aiding the economic recovery and at the rate the economy is improving it just isn’t worth bothering about. But there is another angle to this engineering proposal that doesn’t just do for infrastructure, social needs and employment. It actually gets the country going and gives a much needed boost for everybody. This national project brings with it a new deal for every British citizen from all classes.
Now 80 years ago the world was gripped by the Wall Street Stock crash which wiped millions of the value of capital and destroyed over millions of hopeful dreams. There were people jumping off buildings, families starving and made homeless, the dream of building big bridges to the future where we could achieve anything was in dismay. All because of excessive spending where it was not needed and easy credit making it affordable to buy luxuries without fear of repossession and debt.
When the crash eased and the ashes of the meltdown resided the people of the United States went in search of work, hope, food and vitality. The effect of Black Tuesday had a knock on effect around the world, including here in Britain. Some bankers got jailed for fraud issues, manufacturing and heavy industries lost productivity, farming in the rural areas went into decline as people had vastly migrated to the inner cities during the boom years leading to neglect of the agricultural industry. But there was a solution on the horizon that has been rarely celebrated by historians that could show that there was some light at the end of the tunnel.
A few months before the crash the outgoing US president Calvin Coolidge authorised the construction of a massive dam to tame the Colorado River after years of flooding, irrigation and a need for hydroelectric power for the surrounding cities. When Herbert Hoover came to power and the credit crunch made millions of people jobless the project turned into a salvation for those seeking work and a stimulus for building contractors to survive the economic meltdown. Now today when we get into a money problem some people would choose to rely on benefit money to survive and expect an investment to keep the local businesses alive so that they can get a job. Well the labourers who would build the dam would not because it would be impossible to do so and it would guarantee no long term usefulness for the country or it’s people’s needs. So they got on the nearest train, bus or wagon and travelled to Colorado at the sight of the dam and picked up their tools and settled there. At that time Las Vegas was a small town with a population of 5000 people. With the dam project about to begin it swelled to over 20’000 people. Those who couldn’t get housing there were set up in government funded shanty towns which housed the workers and their families. Over time the living conditions improved as the bosses of the six construction companies building the dam provided food, sanitation and shelter which put the unions at bay and blunt their angry fists. The project went up and up into a national construction project that benefited the entire American workers and businesses and in the end the project was a worthy and noble lifeline for the working classes. The dam eventually became known after the president who started the project and so it became known as the Hoover Dam. It didn’t just provide an economic stimulus and world of work for desperately unemployed people, it acted as a powerhouse that allowed the American West to flourish in the years to come with over 4.2 billion kWh of electricity generated by the passing of water from Lake Mead. The engineers who designed and built the dam had specified the concrete and materials in such a way that it has a lifespan of 10’000 years. There will plenty of clean electricity for millions in the many years to come.
However the Hoover Dam wasn’t the only project that gave hope to the jobless. In New York City there was a new form of Metropolis taking shape when three massive skyscrapers were being built. They took the old medieval depiction of the street and turned it up on its end. During the depression there was an argument about the mammoth costs of these projects while the people were starving and living in Hoovervilles in Central Park. Well the work on the Empire State Building was actually a money pit for the unemployed. The project wasn’t as expensive as it seemed. The Great Depression had devalued the dollar which slashed the price of high quality materials and so the cost of the overall project led to the final cost of the building at around $41 million. The construction company was quick to capitalise on the effects of the recession, which also brought benefits for the workers. It gave a good wage to the gangs of steel erectors putting this massive skyscraper together. A steel worker assembling the beams earned up to $15 dollars a day. The workers were quick to build this massive monument that was going to dominate Manhattan as the recession had devalued the dollar which in turn had reduced the price of steel. There were three major skyscrapers being built in New York all in the name of stimulating the economy and progressing the metropolis into a high rising capital that redefined the skyline above the ground below. There was a fight to the top of the sky between the Empire State, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building. The building gangs on the Empire State took the lead very quickly taking just 15 months to build, three months ahead of schedule. You can they worked like hell to keep their jobs to ensure their survival. Today we take the benefit system as survival money but here you had to hold on tight to your job. One steel worker cut his finger off while wearing a glove where the fabric of the glove hadn’t been torn. This worker waited until no one was looking and took his glove off, rolled the torn finger out over the side, put the glove back on and then got back to fitting beams immediately! It sounds crazy, but when the men were easily replaceable with the millions of unemployed they took great lengths to protect their livelihood. In all over 3400 workers were employed in it’s construction and it guaranteed a long term financial gain for the city as a tourist attraction as well as office space. During the first twenty years of it’s life the building made more money from people visiting the observation deck than from businesses renting out office space.
It looked like a bridge too far had to help the American economy, a bridge that seemed to get shorter with every nut and bolt that went into these major construction projects. But none withstanding as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which for me is the defining pinnacle of the New Deal. The New Deal was a programme of public works enacted in the USA between 1933 and 1938 implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had come to power in the first post Wall Street Crash election and was responsible for taking care of much of the economic recovery through a series of programmes that focused on the 3 Rs. That is Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. Among these 3 Rs was the public building works that exercised the country’s industrial might and motivated the depressed labour force. The Golden Gate Bridge had been a proposal that had been mooted as far back as 1916 when motor car sales were starting to increase tenfold and people started to swap horse and carts for automobiles. Industrial progress and infrastructure development was the order of the day but when the Great Depression came in it was a means to kick start the economy again. Like the Empire State Building the Golden Gate Bridge was built on a deflated currency and the workers set to work like crazy. Braving the elements and surviving many a fall from the harsh conditions of San Francisco bay they managed to complete the bridge in record time. At a cost of $35 million the bridge was completed ahead of schedule and opened in 1937 after four years of building work. It truly was a remarkable bridge over troubled water and unified San Francisco with Marin County. Roosevelt’s New Deal had triumphed over the terrible weather of the Great Depression throughout the 1930s America. In fact the New Deal didn’t just bring three massive skyscrapers, a bridge and massive dam into being it brought nearly 35’000 public building works such as government buildings, airports, hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, and dams. I suppose this kind of policy could do well for other countries as well during the Great Depression. Did Britain for example follow in America’s way of dealing with a big mess with it’s own building projects?
Well yes it did actually! The most significant of these public state funded relief projects was the establishment of the National Grid, delivering electricity on demand whenever we wanted it 24/7. It was all down to an electrician from Newcastle who had been lobbying the government for over twenty years attending endless meetings and coercing with politicians to put the big plan in motion. This man was Charles Merz, he ran a power station in the North West of England and toured the country in the early 1900s conducting an old fashioned pastime of recording electricity suppliers. As Merz toured the country he saw that the UK had a shambolic and seething mess of electricity suppliers in many different forms like a garden of many different plants. In 1905 he had started to suggest an idea to Parliament that there could be a better way to provide light and domestic appliances on a national scale. It wasn’t until the first world war that the government started to take note of Merz’s vision. By 1916 there were 537 different power supply stations across the country each offering a different voltage and frequency. And by 1922 there were 23 different types of plug in use and to use the right plug the gadget you used whether it was a kettle, a hairdryer or an electric heater had to be in tune with the voltage and frequency of the supplier. The whole thing was a useless disorganized shambles. Merz realised that what was needed was one power, one voltage, one plug. In 1926 the bill was officially passed and so the plug was in for the formation of the National Grid with the Electricity Supply Act and the building work began on the National Grid. However like many businesses at the time of the crash Merz almost went into bankruptcy and the project was almost gone. But the government realised the importance of his work because it was giving the country a development in infrastructure and relief for the unemployed. So what did they do, they diverted millions of pounds from the unemployment benefit to save him and the electricity supply project from going bust. Merz was like a hero to the people but today very few people know his name. As well as giving electricity to the masses and modernising the country the National Grid was bringing work to the 3 million people on the dole whose lives had been blighted by the Wall Street Crash as it sent shockwaves across the world. The light at the end of the tunnel came when the first of the 30’000 pylons were built across the country. By 1933 the National Grid started running as a regional series grid and then five years later in 1938 the whole country was electrified when all the stations were connected up to each other. One thing that’s so special about the grid project is the way the people in power went out of their way to let it happen. When the recession bit and the country looked like it was blacked out forever Merz’s vision provided light even in tough economic times. Instead of constantly giving money to the poor the government used the money to generate jobs so the poor could go out to work. That’s a very useful and powerful tool to bring life and hope to the people. Including the lives of consumers who could go out and buy electrical consumer goods and use them straight out of the box from companies who made vast profits of the back of the National Grid.
It’s engineering projects like this that can rebuild a world from ruins. While everyone was partying in the good times the people didn’t really give much thought for a better way of living like this to make our lives easier. Can’t they see engineers and inventors exist to invent the world that we want to live in! Now in the 1920s people were buying more cars than ever before and we treated them like our favourite toys that we took for a spin and showed how loaded we were. Well to show off your load you needed fuel and to get that fuel we needed the fuel from the oil wells, so we set about building petrol stations and mass producing oil into petrol. The building comes before the fun and thus the fun is in the building of the great new world. Scientists and builders could certainly run the world better than politicians and business people. Now one crucial element of building infrastructure in times of economic trouble is the development of roads. The Roman Empire knew how to build them and that was how they managed to rule the continent of Europe. In modern times people needed roads more than ever because they provide a lifeline for the entire country, especially when the trucks and cars get ever more demanding. They need strong solid tarmac to run on. To make the roads more durable for the ever increasing masses to marry the cars with the cities the Ministry of Transport was established in 1920. There was an unemployment relief for those affected by the First World War and they had spent most of the twenties mostly building a small number of trunk roads and bridges. It had been a slow job with many old fashioned cobbles and shingle connecting the cities. It wasn’t until the crash came that the labour force and a call to increase production came along. So the government decided to kill two birds with one stone by building thousands of miles of more roads hiring millions of people to build them. Pretty soon we had dual carriageways and streets with tarmacs allowing cars to glide smoothly over the surface of Great Britain all the way to a home a fit for heroes.
One thing was highlighted during the Great Depression was a lack of investment in the North where most of the industries up there hadn’t modernised during the years after World War One. The south survived relatively unscathed by the economic downturn because of stronger investment plans and close ties to Westminster. This was the start of the famous north-south divide. This started with the material losses from the war and the decline in demand for many of famous industries at the time: coal, steel, shipbuilding, etc. The unions were quick to act and go on the offensive and from then they started to obstruct progress and peaceful resolutions. Now the unions came into being to protect the working classes from unfair treatment of their labour force and to protect their jobs and fight for the survival of their communities. But at the same time they were also insistent on controlling their management’s business dealings and stifling new developments to keep up with the world. They can be fiercely loyal to their brothers but dismissive of national issues. It’s a communistical way of life and I for one denounce them as proletarian prats. If we are to stay together as a nation and distribute our wealth equally and be a strong prosperous nation then we should accept a nationalist government. They are a lot stronger and equal to all classes than these unions would suggest. In 1930 when the Labour government struggled to find a useful solution to the crises the head of state King George V came to our rescue and decided to form a national government uniting all the parties together to solve the crisis. The result was a good coup and everyone started to think positively and prove that nationalism was the only true way to greatness in the years to come. First they brought the country off the gold standard, then they started to increase the building of new homes that were meant to house our heroes returning from the war, then came reduced interest rates and then finally investment in impoverished areas.
Now if we can return to the present tense what can we do to fix the modern Britain of today. Well there is plenty of room for improvement and I can list at least five major construction projects to kick start the economy to get the country going.
This new rail project will get everyone into work and provide a new access route to the north and Scotland. I want to see the country united with a faster train of thought that can redistribute the wealth of our nation and restore the balance of power to the north. We haven’t had a glorious age of railway since the 1930s and 40s and ever since the 1970s our rivals on the continent have had tremendous advances in rail travel. France is currently the world leader in high speed rail with new rail links that can get you from Paris to St Tropez in 4 hours rocketing at over 220 mph with their TGV trains. The German ICE trains run at 186 mph crisscrossing from Berlin to Hamburg in 2 hours. The fastest that our trains run on the London to Edinburgh route reach speeds of up to 125 mph taking about 5 hours to get there on the same old railway lines that have been around since the birth of the locomotive. There also further developments that can be made in the design of the trains, the European networks use double decker carriages to ease overcrowding which can bring an ease to the demand for more carriages on our lines and these European designs use the same gauge as ours without having to expand the tunnels and bridges of the old networks. But don’t just stop there, think about our current railway lines and upgrade them with improved safety features. As soon as the lines are in better shape then our overpriced railway fares can be dropped tremendously.
Extreme Weather Defences
At the time I started writing this a massive wave of wild and wet weather battered the south west coast, Wales and Ireland. Several structures and areas have been hit so badly by the storm that it has caused massive devastation to railway lines, electricity supplies and destroying hundreds of homes. In these recent years Britain has experienced a number of chaotic wintry weather problems. When there were snowstorms the railway networks shut down, the motorways were closed, councils struggled to get enough salt to grit the roads and to top it all the air traffic in and out of this country was grounded. The Norwegians are so ready for bad weather that they only had to ground just 2 flights at Oslo airport in 2010, while here in London Heathrow we had to cancel over 3700 flights because of bad weather. BA haven’t a hope in any kind of trouble like this. Why can’t our own infrastructure cope with such extremities? The only way we are going to get around this is to weatherproof the country so that we can carry on come rain, sleet or shine. Those health and safety bodies are too big for their own boots. The reason why we have so many of these bodies is because these jobs were made so that the previous government could compensate for the job losses that were seen during the 1980s when we switched manufacturing and industries for services and public sector workers. They do better to pick up a shovel and dig for victory than operate from an office and hand out bureaucratic dictations. To put this into action we need to channel those health and safety criteria to the flood control areas. For a start we could dredge the channels and rivers in the countryside so that they can accommodate more rainwater. In Somerset the Burrowbridge on River Parrett has seen a swelling of water causing the rainwater to burst it’s banks with the river stretching across both sides of the bridge. The river hadn’t been dredge in over 20 years and as a result mud and silt had raised the waterline up so high that there is no room for rainwater to enter the overflow holes in the side of the bridge to divert the overflow away from the river.
Updated Manufacturing Facilities including British built gadgets
This is something that is currently on the rise as many manufacturing jobs are being taken away from the sweatshops in many far eastern countries like China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and South Korea. The factory workers that we laid off all those years ago in favour of cheap labour abroad wasn’t just a cost cutting measure but it was also a way to beat the powerful corruptive trade unions who had shackled and held the country to ransom throughout the 1960s and 70s. With capitalist practices put into place the Far East experienced an almighty big economic bang of their own as we started to practice popular capitalism. In the years since the people of Great Britain have gone onto work in call centres, banks, IT firms and city offices. Before the crash only 9 % of the British economy was focused on manufacturing, now that has risen to 20 %. Now many people think this country doesn’t make anything anymore, well it does it’s just that the stuff we do make is in the form of transport, building materials, defence weapons and pharmaceuticals. With the inclusion of other industries like power supplies and mining that brings the industrial sector’s employment rate at around 25%. We can’t have an economy based largely on the services that make up the bulk of the economy from shopping centres to personal firms. Besides services are a customer dependent economy that relies on ordinary people with money to lose. Manufacturing is spawned from science and invention which is the engine that drives progress and the advancement of mankind that rewards it with a brighter future. Retail is just a window for the people to glance at it and buy it and if they don’t buy the shop closes but the manufacturing continues because it can adapt to making new products that the customer will like. Consider the photography shop Jessops. They closed down in 2012 but were brought back on a smaller scale. Now as a shop they sold cameras to the masses and provided photo development opportunities from old fashioned photo prints to canvas wall photo prints. But other inventors and business brains thought differently and found new ways for picture taking and keeping memories. The microchip revolution made digital technology so small that mobile phone users were taking pictures more often than photographers that they don’t bother to buy cameras. Today many people don’t develop their pictures but just store them on now cost effective cheap memory cards and upload them to social networking sites. This new way of photography put an end to the high street photo shop and it is still declining. Retail isn’t as sustainable an economy as manufacturing. It’s a prettier picture when use our hands for assembling rather than selling.
Eco Fuel productions
The Conservatives set out a goal to become the most green eco-friendly government in British political history. That’s a nice thought for innovation but putting into practice has so far proved to be a lot of air blown by cheap insufficient wind farms that do harm than good. They ruin the landscape and the power output of these oversized windmills are not exploited to their full potential because they are often switched off during strong winds because there is a danger that they can burn out their motors and according to the scientific principles of wind power you can extract no more than 59.3% of the energy the wind generates, not enough to provide power for a small town, yet alone a big building. Also the power output of these turbines deteriorate over time as the turbines get older losing valuable energy supplies. Last year the hated Green Tax was going to be rolled back and reduced significantly to appease taxpayers and businesses due to overpriced energy bills. There is the fracking of shale gas announced which also adds to the relief where will have a cheaper and more environmentally friendly source of fuel. It might not be as environmentally friendly as natural gas but it is far less dirty than coal. There are other eco energy solutions out there that have yet to be rolled out across the country that might be able to provide a solution to our energy problems and make the big green policies of the government successful. If it were not for the health and safety and bureaucracy then we could be in a position of such self-preservation that we can shout obscenities to the oil barons of the Middle East about how filthy their fuel is. Now hydrogen has often been a suggested alternative to petrol in cars and kerosene in aeroplanes. History and oil companies have famously written off hydrogen as an alternative fuel from the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster. Well that airship only blew up in flames because of bad weather and you look at the small print in the accident investigation board’s report you’ll find that people involved were actually killed from the falling of the ship to the ground and the fumes from the diesel powered motors of the Hindenburg. Hydrogen isn’t as deadly as it seems providing you can manage it effectively. Using it in an airship is very hard and it can combust in bad weather conditions. The R101 and the Hindenburg proved that, but in the place of petrol it can work wonders. Now even if you have an explosion you will escape unscathed from the car because the risk of fire is minimal. A simple chemistry lesson proves this. Hydrogen might be highly spontaneous but if you ignite it in a controlled manner like the combustion chamber in a petrol engine where it is mixed with air it produces water. Now where there is water the flame is extinguished and so the explosion extinguishes itself. Even if you dose yourself in hydrogen and ignite it the flame won’t even burn you whereas petrol would. Something that the oil companies won’t tell you for fear of loss of profits, and they have to go through tough political and corporate negotiations to get at the black stuff and there again it’s going to run out in the near future. And so are we if we don’t start another industrial revolution.
Investment in the North
Last year I travelled to Glasgow for my interview as a volunteer for the Commonwealth Games. Whilst I was there I discovered a city that was gearing up for a big sporting event that would put the eyes of the world upon it’s venues and landmarks. I didn’t serve any volunteer duties in the London 2012 games because my application was never seen but I did turn it into a positive turn of events and explored a part of the country that I had never been in before. The city was magnificent but downbeat, I almost felt like I was in London in the 1980s. Whilst the busses in London now take credit payments the busman expect correct change for the fares in coins in Glasgow. The city looked magnificent but it had quite a high unemployment rate. I was walking up the street to my hotel and I found at least one advert for a vacancy in every window up there. The city was rejuvenating in other areas though, I saw the Glasgow Science Centre and marvelled at the magnificent achievements Scottish science and technology has given the world, yet this part of Britain seemed to receive little in return for it’s progress in the modern world. As I went along the Clydebank I glanced at the BBC Scotland HQ and realised that at least someone recognised the need to share the wealth of it’s property with the whole of the UK. The United States does this proactively to ensure that the wealth and prosperity of the nation is shared equally amongst all it’s people. NASA as space agency and a government department has a policy of spreading it’s business throughout the country. Stretching from Cape Canaveral, Florida to Pasadena, California. If the businesses and companies stretched that far here in Britain that everyone across the country would have a job and a decent wage to live on with local transport and public services to the same standards as everywhere else. During the Great Depression of the 1930s it had been revealed that the north hadn’t modernised as effectively as the southern counties had. That was the beginning of the north-south divide. If we can share our wealth equally across the country and send the old equipment to the scrapyard replacing the old looms in the clothes factories and the improve the facilities used to build ships in the dockyards then we could see the entire country very rich in wealth, food, housing and services north, south, west and east. Wales could do with hand in agriculture, 77% of the Welsh land is used for farming and at the rate the cost of food and drink is rising, we could help to double the output of the farmers and decrease the price of a loaf of bread which currently stands at £1.40, up from 90p over 10 years ago. The cost of milk and dairy products is also on the up but if we could get cows to milk more effectively then that could go down to. Northern Ireland was once the ship building capital of Britain, the most famous shipyard was the Harland and Wolff which has been around for 150 years. Throughout it’s life it famously built the Titanic along with over 200 ocean going liners, over 130 warships and repaired more than 20’000 ships damaged during the second world war. During the height of it’s power it was the major economic and cultural powerhouse of the local community employing over tens of thousands of workers. Today Harland and Wolff is now a privatised marine engineering, shipbuilding and offshore construction company owned by Norwegian offshore drilling company Fred. Olsen Energy and the yard employs only 500 people. Because of the downscale in their staff and change in their business operations the ship yard lost out to building the Queen Mary 2, which went to a French shipyard, and due to a disbandment with BAE in 1999 the company lost out on a chance to build the new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, which are now built in seven different shipyards across Scotland and England. We used to take great pride in producing these magnificent vessels which allowed us to take the lion’s share of the seven seas, now it has become a thing of the past. The biggest shipbuilding industry in the world now belongs to South Korea. They have such a great flair for engineering marine vessels with the most powerful and efficient building methods that anyone can offer. At maximum productivity they can build over 100 ships a year, that’s at least one new vessel a week.
As it stand there are different ways of communication across the country which have varying speeds of data. Ever since we sold the technology and our industrial base to the Far East they have taken to the advantages of microchip technology like wildfire. South Korea is responsible for the manufacturing of most of the world’s microchips and it really does well with government investment in infrastructure in digital technologies and communication networks. This has given the Koreans and the neighbouring countries of Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore some of the fastest internet speeds in the world. In fact it’s so fast that the people on the subways and busses can be seen watching a constant stream of TV and films played on their mobile devices. The Far East has got the fastest internet and broadband speeds in the world. South Korea is the fastest in the world with an average peak of 63.3 Mbps, with over 90% of the country wired up to fibre optic cables. That is set up as an average across the whole country from the cities to the rural areas. Britain has an average of 47.9 Mbps, with the fastest speeds concentrated in some of the major cities like Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Leeds, Northampton, Stoke on Trent and Birmingham. Some of these are achieved through fibre optic cables while many others including the rest of the country use old fashioned copper telephone lines. This explains why many broadband providers have got false advertising showing that they can give ‘superfast broadband on demand’ but the truth is that it actually varies depending upon where you live. If you live in the city you are likely to get an average of 25 Mbps whilst out in the rural areas you are likely to get an average of 5Mbps.
There are plenty of ways to fix the economy and build a land of business and innovation that bring wealth and prosperity to our country for many years to come. Do not give hand outs, but give a helping hand to solve the problem. Do not give into the wailing of skivers and dead parrots, but show them what better they can bring to themselves and to the country. It’s bringing out the best in people that makes them worthy of their existence. Those who oppose a good deal don’t recognise their importance. All citizens of this country are important, they have to prove themselves for it. Otherwise this deal isn’t worth doing.