Why we need to channel our inner Howard Beale and tell Government why we are 'mad as hell' over rail betrayal - Mark Casci

In the classic 1976 movie Network the central character Howard Beale, a world-weary news broadcaster, snaps live on air in the most memorable of circumstances.

Beale was due to get fired owing to declining ratings for his show and, I guess, felt he no longer had anything to lose.

Appearing dishevelled and deranged, he begins to lament crime, inflation and the general feeling of life becoming out of control.

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As the rant draws to a crescendo he exhorts his viewers that in order to fix these myriad problems, the first thing that everyone had to collectively do was to get angry. He tells viewers to run to their windows and yell at the top of their lungs: “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”

HS2 will not be heading to Leeds.

The call to arms is phenomenally successful as thousands of people across America follow his instruction. Beale’s firing is reversed and he is instead given a bigger show with a higher audience.

It’s a scene that has given me much joy throughout my life, usually when faced with the same preposterous set of circumstances as Beale faced that fictitious evening.

Such an event occurred last week when I read a transcript of an interview with the Prime Minister conducted by our Westminster Correspondent Caitlin Doherty.

Contained in the copy, amidst Boris Johnson’s insistence that his Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) is “amazing” was his almost comical admission that he does not have an answer as to how to get HS2 trains to Leeds. Whilst the Prime Minister and I clearly have very different thresholds for what constitutes amazing, this statement got me close to winding my window down and yelling at the unsuspecting sunbathers outside YP towers.

The PM is underdelivering on rail for the north.

All this comes after earlier in the week Transport Secretary Grant Shapps smugly told a select committee that the North’s elected mayors were “playing pure politics” in deigning to suggest the IRP was not delivering the transport network we were promised.

Mr Johnson’s Government cancelled the Leeds leg late last year as part of the IRP, along with Northern Powerhouse Rail, leaving us with a watered down ersatz facsimile of what we had previously been promised.

His Government is spending circa £100m on a feasibility study as to how high speed trains could reach the region, although six months on from announcing this study it is unclear that this has even begun. It is likely to be years before it lands, almost certainly after the next general election I would predict.

The scrapping of HS2 has effectively put Yorkshire in the slow lane compared to Birmingham and Manchester and comes against the backdrop of Government further gerrymandering in our transport infrastructure affairs by needlessly calling in plans for a £150m upgrade to Leeds Bradford Airport, ultimately leading to its owners mothballing the plan.

There is a wider backdrop to the betrayal in that for more than 10 years Leeds has kept to one side a vast amount of prime development land in the city centre due to be developed as part of HS2.

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that when the study does finally come back it is going to suggest proceeding with the initially planned Y-shaped plan, with the eastern leg going to Leeds as initially intended. It is the only realistic option.

It delivers on the original mission statement and allows us to crack on without another couple of years of navel gazing, allowing the misguided HS2 opponents more room to point out the obvious that it will cost a lot of money (virtually all of our infrastructure and national institutions cost a lot of money, that’s why they are what they are!).

I don’t want the full £100m, I will gladly take a one per cent finder’s fee and donate it to the Rob Burrow Motor Neurone Fund.

This way is far more efficacious with public money than this ludicrous study that is only going to tell us what we already know. Meanwhile my friends, feel free to roll down your windows.

We sure as hell are not going to take this anymore.