Magazine article The Spectator

Why Can't We Build the Grands Projects We Need? We Ought to Try Asking the Frogs

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Can't We Build the Grands Projects We Need? We Ought to Try Asking the Frogs

Article excerpt

The French have a name for them: grands projets. It does not exactly translate into English, and that goes for the projects as well. A visiting team from SNCF, which runs the French railways, was once asked to explain this. How had they got their new line from the Channel Tunnel to Paris up and running when the line from the tunnel to London was no more than some dots on a map? The visitors' answer was simple: `Aha, we have a saying in France: when we drain the pond, we do not consult the frogs.' Years later, they were surprised to find that the cost of building the line across Kent (now due to open in 2003) was inflated by special provisions, not only for frogs, but for dormice, voles and badgers. What form of destructive wildlife, they must now ask, has got into the plans for rebuilding and renewing Britain's other railways? …

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