‘Far be it from me to come over all Freudian, but there has to be latent significance in the manifestation of a group of men boring through the ground inside a giant, phallic-shaped machine with a woman’s name. And not just one group of men: we’re talking eight, for eight phallic-shaped machines, all of which bear women’s names.
‘True, to be fair to the Crossrail project, there are women working these big drilling dicks as well – the evening before I visited the Crossrail site in east London I watched the The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway on BBC2, and the senior engineer working on the particularly tricky job of tunnelling under the Thames was a woman, as was her deputy. However, for now, I suspect these are the exceptions that prove the rule: the grands projets of the built environment have a tendency to be pushed forward by a distinctively masculine combination of grandiosity, obsessive single-mindedness and either brute or mechanical strength.
‘And, as projects go, they don’t get much grander than Crossrail. I’m not going to bore into you with the statistics here – God knows they’ve been dinned into you enough already; really as noisy background justification for the fact that the vast amount of that £15bn comes out of London taxpayers’ pockets. What exactly are we getting for our buck? Why, big, phallic-shaped machines banging into Mother Earth, that’s what.
‘Oh, and if you’re not happy with my psychoanalytic take on it, why not hearken to what Terry Morgan, the Crossrail chairman, sold to me as the benefit of the new railway while I was taking my trousers off in front of him. (Purely, I might add, in order that I could put some high-vis ones on before we went down his hole together.) According to Terry – a bluff, genial, highly likable fellow, who’s spent the greater part of his career in the arms industry – once Crossrail is up and running, it will cut journey times from Reading to the City by 30 whole minutes; not only that, but the harassed commuters won’t have to change trains, they can just sit there playing Angry Birds, or reading the FT the entire time.’
Read the rest of Will’s piece for Guardian Cities here.