Good riddance to 2016, next year cannot be worse, can it? asks Paul Geater
PUBLISHED: 10:00 29 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:39 29 December 2016
If I’d been looking in a crystal ball at the start of 2016 and seen all the events of the next 12 months, I think I’d have been left feeling I was having a nightmare, writes Paul Geater.
At least we are finally going to get a better rail service
One piece of news that was good in 2016 was the award of a rail franchise that should really transform rail services across the region over the next nine years.
Abellio’s pledge to introduce a fleet of brand new trains for all its services in the region within the next four years is bold and should make journeys much better for most people.
It’s a decision that could only have come from a privatised rail company.
Can anyone with any knowledge of the old days of British Rail really believe we would have such a transformation on the cards if the fate of the region’s railways was still being decided by a national board sitting in their London headquarters?
The new trains are still between three and four years away being fully introduced – and their arrival will make life slightly less interesting for the region’s rail enthusiasts.
But they should make journeys much better and faster for the travellers in and around East Anglia.
Now all we need is for Network Rail to promise that it will carry out the improvement it needs to do to enable the trains to run at their full potential.
I suspect that will happen . . . eventually.
And then we’ll have to stop thinking of East Anglia’s railways as a “Cinderella service” and see it as one of the best rail routes in Britain.
On the national and international stage it’s been a thoroughly unpleasant year – and the world is now a much nastier and more unsettling place than it was a year ago.
Let’s start with the Brexit vote.
There is much about the administration of the EU that is dysfunctional and I can understand the political frustration that led 52% of the population to vote leave.
But that decision makes no sense economically. It may be what the majority of voters wanted, but the majority of people in this country will be left poorer as a result of withdrawal.
The value of the pound has fallen. That will really hit prices in the shops next year. Will you get a 5%-plus pay rise to compensate for increasing prices?
And the uncertainty the decision has caused will impact on jobs. Nissan was offered a secret deal to stay in the country – but what about other major exporters? How will they cope when we leave the single market?
Because we will leave the single market. There is no way the rest of Europe will let us remain if we want to keep their citizens away from our jobs which is what many voters seem to want.
And the Brexit vote has made society nastier. Warped people with unpleasant views seem to think it’s given them the excuse they need to express those views for the first time in a generation.
And with a tiny minority it’s gone further. We’ve ended up with an MP murdered by a white supremacist and a Polish man who died after being set upon by thugs in Harlow.
Now a noisy advocate of Brexit has accused Jo Cox’s widower of “politicising” her murder. Is that acceptable in the new Britain?
One last point about Brexit. For all its faults the EU has brought peace to its members for the last 60 years after 45 years of conflict during the first half of the century. Could that be endangered by the rise of extremists in a nationalist-focussed continent?
On the other side of the Atlantic we’ve seen a businessman with no political experience being elected president of the USA.
He appears to be bringing in a load of non-politicians to the top jobs and is showing a worrying lack of political nous.
It’s all very well for the public to say they’re fed up with politicians holding political office – but you need some people who know what they’re doing, especially in the world of diplomacy and economic issues.
If you have a specialist heart unit at a hospital with a mortality rate that is too high, do you sack all the surgeons and replace them with accountants? Of course not.
Let’s hope sanity returns to politics in 2017 and that somehow we get through next year!