Planning in the media

The formal opening of St Pancras station and the boost for High Speed 1 encouraged the media to highlight problems in the country's transport infrastructure.

In spite of the scheme's high profile, the UK is "stuck in the slow lane", wrote Steve Richards in The Independent. "Continental Europe rolls out hundreds of kilometres of equivalent tracks each year and the airlines are forced to rethink their strategies in the face of such competition," he said. "In the UK the airlines can relax as timid leaders unite around a complacent inertia and conclude that there is nothing more they can do."

The Sun noted that passengers on Eurostar can travel "211 miles in two hours and 15 minutes with a glass of champagne that barely trembles at 186mph". But it added: "The rest of us must travel pig class at rip-off prices, crammed standing-room-only into trains that might or might not leave, or arrive, on time."

Andrew Martin in The Independent on Sunday saw the high-speed line as "a spur to regeneration not along the length of the line at the expense of the countryside, but in the towns and cities where the new, beautiful stations would be constructed".

BBC1's Countryfile focused on the conservation efforts to mitigate the impact of High Speed 1. The 109km track that stretches from St Pancras to Cheriton before heading into Europe is the first major railway to be built in the UK in more than a century and comprises 152 bridges and 26km of tunnels. London & Continental Railways is employing more than 100 ecologists on conservation projects.

The Observer tackled the issue of holiday homes, arguing that "one person's freedom to buy a cottage with a sea view, which will sit empty for much of the year, must surely be weighed against a rural community's collective right to survival". The urban wealthy "do not gentrify the countryside, they hollow it out".

Survival of a different kind caught the eye of Libby Purves in The Times. She expressed concerned at "Whitehall's shrugging fatalism" in withdrawing protection in rural coastal areas, pointing to the '"anger and fear that distant decisions always overrule local feeling". Purves commented that DEFRA is "no more fit to make decisions about sea defences than it proved fit to maintain a simple bit of pipeline that would have prevented the escape of foot-and-mouth disease from its own laboratory".


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