The Anonymous Widower

To Revive Economy, Think Infrastructure

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on CommonWealth.

This is the sub-title.

It worked in the Great Recession and it can work now.

The author is talking about Massachusetts in 2008, but I’m sure it would work in the UK and other countries in 2020.

Projects I would bring forward in the UK.

  • Build lots of wind farms, both onshore and offshore.
  • Build energy storage. I would go for Highview Power.
  • Use wind energy to generate hydrogen for industrial processes. ITM Power in Rotherham, have the technology.
  • Build a refuelling network for hydrogen-powered cars, buses, trucks and other vehicles.
  • Add new rail stations to the network, where needed.
  • Update all possible rail, tram, light rail and Underground stations so they are step-free.
  • Build the electrified Huddersfield and Leeds upgrade to the TransPennine Route.
  • Expand the Blackpool Tram, the Edinburgh Tram, the Manchester Metrolink, Merseyrail, the Nottingham Express Transit, the Sheffield Supertram, the Tyne and Wear Metro and the West Midlands Metro.
  • Extend the Docklands Light Railway West to Charing Cross, Euston, St. Pancras and Victoria.

I would setup a construction pipeline, so all areas of the country got a share of the new infrastructure.

We must be bold.



May 1, 2020 - Posted by | Health, Transport, World | , , , , , ,


  1. Not infrastructure on a grand scale but i would add insulating domestic properties so they achieve C or better EPC. Estimates that half of UK housing stock is less than C so that’s c10m houses. Nice logistical job that would be labour intensive in not only physical work but admin and communication staff would benefit. This is ‘shovel ready’ stuff and the real benefit is it reduces energy demand as this is the only way to come close to getting to an all renewable.

    Also get on with rest of Midland Main Line elecn – another project close to shovel ready.

    Problem is how much is HS2 now taking from the pot which is just employing too many well paid consultants not 10’000s of workers.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 1, 2020 | Reply

    • Interest rates are lower than they have ever been going back to the Napoleonic wars. HS2 isn’t constraining the UK’s ability in any way. UK GDP was 2.21 Trillion pounds last year. Adding 5-10 billion a year in infrastructure to put people to work and make the economy greener and more efficient is a no brainer.

      Comment by William McIntyre | May 1, 2020 | Reply

  2. I used to work for ICI in the 1970s and they had an ambition to insulate all houses, but it never got off the ground, as existing owners preferred to pay the extra fuel bills rather than suffer the disruption. I think they came to the conclusion, that some of the vast three-bedroom semi-lands surrounding cities would be best flattened and started again. It has been high on the list to do for decades, but never gets done.

    I agree that the MML should be done. But I think it could be done by electrifying.

    Sheffield and Clay Cross Junction.

    East Midlands Parkway and Leicester

    And then using battery trains with a 65 mile range, as proposed by Hitachi.

    Comment by AnonW | May 1, 2020 | Reply

    • They should have one diesel engine on the new bimodes the rest of the rafts should have batteries for sure

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 1, 2020 | Reply

    • Batteries won’t work for freight. With a proper rolling program of electrification you could get cost below a million a mile. At that price electrifying the entire northern network could be done for a few billion and would be a fantastic investment.

      Comment by William McIntyre | May 1, 2020 | Reply

      • I know batteries won’t work for freight. But we need to have an independently-powered 2.5-3 MW locomotive, to serve the docks, freight terminals and quarries of the UK and bridge the gaps between sections of electrification. I believe that a double locomotive can be designed and built in the next five years that can provide enough power for two hours. It would also have a conventional 4 MW electrical system for use on electrified lines. What would a pair of Class 88 or 93 locomotives be able to handle? I also feel that hydrogen has a part to play, especially as the technology is getting better year-by-year.

        Comment by AnonW | May 1, 2020

  3. In an article in Rail Magazine, Hitachi were quoting a 55-65 mile range at 90-100 mph. I suspect, you could replace all diesels, as Clay Cross North Junction and East Midlands Parkway is only 31 miles and Nottingham and East Midlands Parkway is only 8 miles or 16 miles return. There might even be enough power to run at 125 mph.

    That would be some battery train!

    Remember engineering is the science of the possible, whereas politics is dreams of the impossible.

    Comment by AnonW | May 1, 2020 | Reply

  4. My understanding is that with existing housing stock, only limited improvements in household energy efficiency via insulation etc. are possible, with significant disruption as observed. And even with that you either have to reduce room size (interior mounting) or add exterior cladding. Both have disadvantages, especially exterior cladding (not least if the building is listed, as my house is at grade II, or is in conservation areas). Rebuild also difficult generally and for listed/conservation buildings.

    There will be low hanging opportunities to improve EPC a a bit which should be encouraged e.g. windows, doors, lofts (maybe exterior cladding at roof level), which could be encouraged through tax breaks and subsidies, and also removing need for permissions in listed buildings as long as the changes follow a published model with a notification process. But not enough to make the radical change needed.

    Reducing household energy consumption/CO2 loads may be more practical, e.g. replacing CO2 generating heating with air source or ground source heat pumps augmented by electric, and also household level battery storage (charge up overnight to full next days consumption).

    Comment by MilesT | May 2, 2020 | Reply

    • Miles, don’t disagree but this sort of work is very quick to get mobilised uses production and manufacturing facilities we already have so to mind it can hoover up people into work very rapidly. Infrastructure projects take time actually far too long by the time you’ve done consultations, planning, ecological and invariably employ overpaid consultant types for years before being shovel ready.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 3, 2020 | Reply

      • A lot of the projects, I have in mind, like new stations and step-free footbridges at stations have already done the consultations, although the design is not finalised. Also some projects would stimulate a lot of business and employment in the local area.

        Comment by AnonW | May 3, 2020

  5. Perhaps twenty years ago, I went to a lecture by a surveyor from the Country Landowners Association. He kept us entertained for a couple of hours, over how ridiculous the regulations as to Listed buildings were. I had a few run-ins over them with councils in the past.

    In one row, I was arguing with the council planner about putting an en suite in a large bedroom. He’d brought the Listed building lady with him to get me under control. But she then said to him. “Do you think this house should be as it was in 1840?” He said gave a qualified yes! So she said. “I take it you mean outside toilets?” He crawled into a hole and I never saw him again.

    Comment by AnonW | May 2, 2020 | Reply

    • AnonW last para just sums up many ludicrous aspects of ill thought out legislation within this country

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 3, 2020 | Reply

      • She was very practical. The house we were doing up had terrible concrete chimneys, because the originals had fallen. She asked what I was going to do with them. I said, I lived in a similar house on the other side of Suffolk and one of those had fallen in The Great Storm, but had been replaced by a skilled bricklayer, copying the other that had survived. He replaced that one later.

        She just said send a good picture and she’d think about it.

        We got the all clear fairly sharpish.

        We need more historic building people like her! Once met, never forgotten! Especially, as she was probably less than five foot tall.

        Comment by AnonW | May 3, 2020

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