I came away thinking it was a splendid place, and also reflecting how much England suffered in the 20th century from its metropolitan bias. A healthy country needs strong provinces such as England had in the Victorian Age, the exceptional century in its history, when so much of the cultural and intellectual vitality of the nation was to be found in the North and Midlands rather than in London.
Make public transport, the railways, heck, make private transport, the motorways, worse.
Such cultural and intellectual vitality depends upon clustering. And clustering just isn\’t going to happen in Bristol when London is 90 minutes max by train. And the better the transport networks, the greater the distance that can be travelled in the magic time period (which could be what, 2 hours, three?) then the more that vitality will cluster in one place, the more that one place will suck it out of those places that it can be sucked out of.
Not even the Victorians believed that Reading, Slough or Clapham were going to create vibrant intellectual spaces of their own. It was obvious that people would travel into London, to the great national concentrations for that. And the better the transport system the larger the area over which we can hear that great sucking sound.
Provincial revival depends upon bad transport connections with London, not good: a lesson for the HS2 peeps there perhaps?
Whoops, sorry, the quote is from Allan Massie.