Explaining subjects of any complexity to the average reader of a mid-market tabloid can be challenging. So challenging, in fact, that some hacks and pundits would rather not bother, taking the view that, in the land of the blind, the partially sighted are king. So it is that the Mail’s science editor Michael Hanlon has appointed himself arbiter of knowledge about rail travel.
Eurostar trains at St Pancras International
Hanlon is unhappy about Crossrail and HS2. They don’t go, he argues, where he believes they should. For instance, Crossrail does not serve Euston, where HS2 will arrive in the capital, overlooking the inconvenient fact that the two meet at Old Oak Common. Then he carps that Crossrail will not run all the way to Reading, failing to see that same platform interchange will be available to passengers en route.
Then comes his clincher: Crossrail and HS2 do not run to St Pancras, and thus do not connect directly with the existing high speed network. Readers are given the impression that this is a particularly British failing, and are not told that Paris CDG is not connected directly to the city’s first high speed terminal at Gare de Lyon. Or that Madrid’s Barajas airport does not have a direct Metro link to Puerta de Atocha.
Only at St Pancras: ICE takes a bow
That there is an “art of the possible” element to shoe-horning heavy engineering into the heart of the metropolis is not allowed to enter. Nor is there more than a passing mention that Crossrail’s main aim, apart from joining up otherwise disparate suburban networks, is to relieve the pressure on the Tube’s Central Line, which runs at or beyond capacity for far too much of every day.
Hanlon suggests that HS2 should go to St Pancras, but short of demolishing a swathe of north London – including the British Library – it isn’t about to happen. It would be far better value to put together a decent pedestrian route from there to Euston, a distance which, after all, is no further than going from one terminal to another at many large airports, and easily walkable.
Only from St Pancras: Frankfurt-M and Amsterdam
And just to finish off in style, Hanlon complains about the closure of the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo, without telling his readers just how much longer the London to Paris (or Brussels) transit was from there, or that HS1 into St Pancras will allow trains built to mainland European structure gauge, and so in future there will be direct services into Germany and the Netherlands too.
The impression is given that this is just a conflation of whinge and rant without bothering to do any research beforehand. That, of course, is not unheard of at the Mail from the likes of Richard Littlejohn – or at the Telegraph from pundits like Bozza – but we’re talking about the paper’s science editor here. One might expect something more enlightening than another sheet of knocking copy.
But enlightenment is what readers fail to receive. And that’s not good enough.