James Dyson is, quite literally, a household name: his vacuum cleaner is the object of choice in so many bourgeois under-the-staircase glory-holes.
He is also a good North Norfolk-born lad (Cromer, as it happens), which is fair enough reason to hear him.
Here he was today, with the Thunderer opinion-column in The Times [£].
His gripe, which we have heard before, is the UK’s failure to maintain and improve the infra-structure:
With Britain’s population having grown by nearly four million in ten years, we need to match that extra demand with long-term investment in roads, rail and airports. The coalition’s plan to electrify the spine of Britain is exactly what is needed. The spin doctors may tout it as a £9 billion investment in our railways, but split over five years it’s £2 billion a year. Slow and steady investment will win the race.
Despite our British tendency to form a well-mannered queue, we cannot delay decisions on infrastructure in the world’s seventh largest economy. The delay in deciding how we could add more capacity to our overstretched airports in the South East is infuriating. The IMF has downgraded the UK’s growth prospect to 0.2 per cent, so as the home market struggles British businesses will have to look abroad in order to grow, At Dyson four fifths of our machines are exported. Without strong links to foreign markets, british business suffers. Indecision over a third runway for Heathrow or a Thames Estuary airport is bad for business and bad for government coffers too; Dyson pays 85 per cent of its taxes to HMRC.
The problem is not confined to the air. Our roads seem to be crumbling just as we expect some of the heaviest traffic into London. The M4 has been closed for emergency repairs to cracks in the supporting pillars. Investing in our ageing roads is as important as spending on big new projects. A constant flow of funding is required to prop up an economy worth £1.4 trillion.
OK, fair enough. Not cutting-edge stuff. No Nobels for Literature there. But we feels your pain, James.
Let’s do a quick check-back:
The population may not have increased by those four million in ten years. Local authorities in the big cities have been banging on for the last decade that the 2001 Census was a long way less than perfect.
£2 billion year is about what we’ve been chucking at the Olympics. It might buy you a decent aircraft carrier, or pay for a small war. It’s not open-wallet time.
There is no way that Borisport-on-Thames is going to happen. That leaves us with a third runway for Heathrow, second runways at either Stansted or Gatwick, and developing feeder sites (such as Eddie Stobart is doing at Southend) linked to much improved rail links. Currently a coach service ambles along the congested M25 from Heathrow to Gatwick. For half of the Olympics budget, less than a sixth of the Borisport back-of-an-envelope accounting, we could achieve “Heathwick”, with a 15-20 minute transfer time.
But all of that, and more, would amount to “Plan B”, and Gids he say no.