Looking back at the year here in the UK there have been some major decisions taken. After years of delays there was the choice of Heathrow over Gatwick for an extra runway. And, at last, an agreement on a new nuclear power station for Hickley Point. Plus, of course, the once in a life time chance to have a vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
But on reflection many promises and plans failed to reach their targets and objectives. Some never even left the launch pad.
In politics, of course, the big one was the vote where the populus refused to be pressured into accepting a future tied to building a single European super state. But six months later and the actual implementation of this critical decision is still stuck in quicksands around parliament and delayed by legal processes. Clearly the people’s decision was not the one that the power brokers wanted to hear or can now accept.
In transport we had another year where HS2 kept consuming public funds at an alarming rate but without actually laying any tracks. This prestige project has already taken longer to get to this point than it took the Victorian navvies to complete an entire railway between the same two stations – by hand. But at least some lower profile railway projects did produce results. For example the delivery of the first of the Hitachi Intercity Express trains being built at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. As reported here before these new trains – and others proposed – will be able to cut journey times using existing tracks. In fact, well before the HS2 links arrive at Leeds and Manchester, these new trains could be providing nearly the same journey times as HS2 – for much less cost and lower fares.
In energy any electricity from Hickley Point is still decades away and it feels like only a succession of mild winters will avoid major black-outs as demand continues to climb but capacity steadily falls. The idea that all new homes would be zero-carbon was quietly abandoned. While the smart meter project limped along – costing more but achieving less. And extra gas from fracking will not be around to help – as a combination of indecisive leadership and grass roots protests crippled all attempts at drilling.
In the media the year is probably best described as familiar. The press stuck to the traditional views of themselves and the world at large. While the BBC continued to claim it was both politically neutral and seriously underfunded. So still living in a world of its own. One day someone will bring reality to bear on the claim that we are all happy to pay the TV tax as good value for money … but that’s some way off.
In sport things looked much brighter in 2016. Everywhere there were victories, records and medal winners. A truly memorable year that will be hard to match. While it is true that England continued to fall short of expectations in the national game – football – again; the other home nations did a good job at making amends. Sometimes having the richest league does not help build a winning national team.
So it is probably best to look back at 2016 as the year of sporting success – and forget all the other issues. At least until life returns to normal early in January!