Besides scrapping the welfare state, the government’s plans to return Britain to the Victorian age include ‘High Speed Two (HS2)’, a ‘proposal to introduce high speed rail from London to Birmingham – and later to Manchester, Leeds and ultimately Scotland. The recommended route would run from a rebuilt Euston Station to a new station in Birmingham.’ The Department for Transport is currently running a formal consultation, which includes a series of ‘road shows in Camden to provide more information on the proposals and give you the opportunity to have your say’. The first of them is at Euston today, until 8 p.m. There’s a vivid description in Dombey and Son of what happened to Camden when the London and Birmingham Railway was built in the 1830s:
Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill; there, confused treasures of iron soaked and rusted in something that had actually become a pond. Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely situations; carcases of ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and tripods straddling above nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places, upside down, burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, mouldering in the water, and unintelligible as any dream.
But no doubt Dickens was exaggerating.