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Wednesday 2 March 2011

The Clueless Hefferlump

Those in favour of the proposed high speed rail link from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds have today been given an unintended boost: Maily Telegraph hack Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer has weighed in on the side of those opposed to it.

And, as he did with his clumsy homage to Phil Space on the subject of decimalisation, the Hefferlump has loaded his copy with so many errors and exaggerations as to render his contribution worse than useless. He begins by smearing the Government as “this neo-socialist Coalition, which manifestly seeks a neo-socialist dimension”, thus confusing his desire for ideological purity with the real world.

Then we are told that air travel, for longer distances, is cheaper: Heffer uses Stansted to Edinburgh as his example, and quotes a “second class return fare” by rail of £383 (yes, I know, there hasn’t been a “second class” within the UK for many years) versus £52 with EasyJet. So I looked at EasyJet’s site for outward travel tomorrow, return the next day, and the best was £102 before booking fees and other charges. An off-peak return rail fare from London to Edinburgh is £114.60.

Facts, eh? They’re terribly inconvenient for the Hefferlump – like mileages. London to Manchester in Heffer world is 166 miles, but by rail right now is just under 189. And that journey was subject to many years’ disruption while the West Coast Main Line (WCML) was upgraded, but Heffer still asserts “the idea of expanding and improving existing lines ... could be done at a small fraction of the cost and with far less disruption”.

Upgrading existing rail – and road – networks while they are open for traffic is inherently more expensive than building new ones. But facts still do not deter Heffer, who describes the proposed new railway as “concreting over a large stretch of England”, thus showing he doesn’t even know the difference between road and rail.

Moreover, the Hefferlump is decades behind reality on his local geography. His preferred solution, apart from that painless and disruption free upgrade to existing rail routes, is for more “enterprise zones”. These would be “in south Lancashire and the West Riding, around Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Bradford”.

Very good, Simon, except that the West Riding ceased to exist in 1974, as did the presence of Liverpool and Manchester in any part of Lancashire.

The universal lack of accuracy in Heffer’s articles is staggeringly bad. It’s like Littlejohn without any attempt at humour. It’s a good job for the Hefferlump that his pay isn’t related to getting the facts right.

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