Why is the UK so technologically behind the rest of Western Europe?

France, Italy, Spain, etc have had high-speed rail services for years and here we are, in 2012 still arguing about building one. It truly is pathetic how far the country that spear-headed the Industrial Revolution has fallen behind our European neighbours.

Likewise the road system is in a right state, full of pot-holes, roads too narrow for the volume of traffic, constant grid-lock in many places and the poor quality of the road surfaces knacker cars far quicker than they do in Western Europe where the governments actually invest money to keep them well-paved and fit for purpose.

There isn't even a proper British car manufaturer anymore. Brits might slag off Renault and Fiat, but hey, at least they're proper French and Italian engineering companies who build the majority of their cars in their own countries and employ their own people. Unfortunatley that's more than we can say.

I don't like to be unpatriotic, but when you see how far-advanced a lot of Western Europe is compared to the UK it really makes one wonder why this country has fallen so far back when we used to be so far forward.


Because we now can't afford it, since we spend all our cash on Europe, lazy work shy cnuts, and immigrants.
Because the British electorate would rather have tax cuts than investment.
The roads are a joke within Glasgow in some areas it's right down to the original cobblestones below which is keeping it together. Funnily enough most of the damage around the city centre roads is due to buses same with the congestion the drivers jump the lights block jcns etc. Mind you got to admit the investment in the new M74/M80 upgrade has been great I've almost cut my commute in half time wise.

As for car manufacuring I think British Leyland/Rover caused the demise themselves with the amount of bad cars they put out.
Compared to our European cousins, especially the ones with the better infrastructure? Nah, we're consistently middle of the pack - or at least we were in 2009.
Quite simply. The NHS and Benefits.

Take away those and we could afford to give free public transport to everyone. However I suspect most people would be too ill to enjoy it!


Pointless thread
So essentially what you're saying is British people are inherrently more selfish than continental Europeans and thus less likely to tolerate tax rises?
Much as I'm tempted to say yes, I think it's just down to a more parochial outlook. If we can't see it happening down our street we can't make ourselves believe we're benefiting from it.
Do we really need a 'high speed' rail network? It's not like we're as big as France, Spain or Germany and our cities aren't as spread out.

It seems a lot of money to knock 25 minutes off the time from Birmingham to London that could be spent on improving other aspects of the national infrastructure.
Interesting point. But as a dirty expat Kraut now immovably rooted down in the Midlands I would like to point out that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

True, the roads & public transport network over here is a patchwork mess. Don't really know why we put up with it. Also, due to the housing market being a shambles many properties, especially those for rent, are a bit basic even by the standards of 30 years ago.

On the other hand, with the UK being an importing nation a lot of technology is cheaper over here and therefore much more widespread. Wireless network hotspots are all over the place, laptops, smartphones and other doo-dahs can be had for pocket money. Owning, running and learning to drive a car is all relatively cheap over here as opposed to, say, Germany (as far as I remember the place).

In truth, I don't know why that is. Could it be a cultural thing?

British society is very 'local' in nature. Local councils have a lot of say about what goes on in their boundaries and so there is a lot of variance. That is why a cottage in the cotswolds is entirely different to a flat in Manchester. You'll find distinctly different ways of life within different parts of the UK and people like to take care of their own affairs.

In the old country things used to be a bit more...samey. Move into a flat in Hannover and then move into Frankfurt and you'll find that plumbing, heating elements, sinks, the loo and the off-white woodchip wallpaper all all according to the same standard. Naturally, there is a tendency to network it all together, followed by a huge public outcry as soon as something goes pear-shaped.

In Britain people like to have a good grumble but - it must be said - there is some truth to the continental myth of the stoic Brit. Even if things are a bit shite, at the end of the day we'll all just get on with it, rather than - heavens forbid! - get political about it and rattle some cages.

Also, in the UK we like brilliant stuff. Gadgets, toys and clever little things. It's a nation of innovation. Germany on the other hand is better at getting a production line going, of setting things in motion in a neat and orderly fashion. It does take a long time for them to catch on to new trends though, like a lumbering industrial giant who - sorry, folks! - isn't the brightest.

Hmm...I actually don't know how they handle things in France.
I think it's a culture based on wine, sweaty cheeses and dodgy parking...?
Rail infrastructure projects here in the UK cost far more than anywhere else in Europe, hence the meagre returns on the investment.
The companies involved in these projects make a very healthy profit(AKA rip off the taxpayer) indeed.
The high speed link to Brum is projected to cost £170million a mile, or approximately £100,000 a metre, £1,000 a centimetre.
Seems a tad expensive IMO, especially when it is pretty certain the final cost will be more than three times the original estimates based on past experience.
They are pumping 50million into the night train I'm surprised its still going with the advent of cheap flights to/from regional airports. They claim its for business but you won't touch it if you had a morning meeting as its often late by 2-4hrs on an almost daily basis. Must just be running for certain types so they can get their leg over with a PA.


Book Reviewer
A lot of it is down to the differences in law. In France and Italy they operate under a variant of the Code napoleon, which essentially prefers the rights of the State over the rights of an individual "for the greater good." English law protects the rights of the individual over the rights of the State. As a result its significantly easy for the French govt, for example, to take your land for a high speed route than it is in Britain. It also means that the culture of the state is such that they have no qualms about destroying a village to get the best direct route. Result - in England it takes years to get approval for a high speed link and this costs money. The TGV may be great but its also a symbol of an over-powerful state.
Yup, HSTs need new track, the faster the train the larger the radius of any curve has to be. England is a relatively densely populated country, planning reasonably straight rail lines is guaranteed to upset lots of people who do not see trains as things of beauty, and create formidable opposition to compulsory purchase. Tunnelling is horridly expensive.
Waste of money on a shiny toy. Rather than trimming 20 minutes off a journed, now about putting on some decent carriages with comfortable seating, ideally a return to the compartment-and-corridor design. Also quiet carriages (where it is actually enforced and offenders put off at the next stop) and adults-only carriages.

You could make train travel an awful lot nicer for less than the cost of making it a little bit faster.

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