All hell has broken loose in Manchester two days after the government pulled the plug on funding for the promised expansion of the excellent Metrolink. “Betrayed” was the word the Manchester Evening News used, and they wouldn’t be far off the mark. £520 million had been promised, of which £200 million has already been spent on the preparatory work.
The government’s argument is that the cost of the ‘big bang’ solution has spiraled to over £1 billion, but publicly funded projects always spiral in cost from concept to implementation — it’s how you get things approved. There can’t be a single school, hospital, motorway or fighter plane that has come in on budget and that has never stopped governments before.
The suspicion is that the money has been syphoned off to improve London’s transport system to bolster the city’s doomed Olympic bid. Ironically, the east bound extension of the Metrolink was meant to be completed for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester two years ago which embarrassingly didn’t happen (the Metrolink, not the games). Don’t recall the government diving in to help us out then.
Anyway, the upshot is that the north has been sold out again in favour of the south and a lot of people are very angry about it. Funny thing is, the announcement came less than a week after the Butler Report into the intelligence that led us into the war in Iraq and widely tipped to bring about Tony Blair’s demise.
I never thought it would. Wars don’t generally lose you elections, but domestic policies often do. And in that respect, TB might think £1 billion is not too high a price to pay to keep 2.5 million Mancunians on board.