John Wylie of University of Exeter presenting, ‘The Common Line:…
Connecting and Severing: a Deconstruction of the Language of HS2 Ltd
Research part-funded by LRG in 2019
This project reviews some of the language used by the Department for Transport, in the guise of HS2 Ltd, to describe and promote the UK’s largest ever high-speed rail project, and to encourage public acceptance of the scheme.
The work is entirely focused on how landscape justice/injustice might be performed through the language of a powerful public body, and how access/connection to, and disconnection from landscape along the long, thin site of the proposed line is addressed or concealed through words.
Key facts about the proposals for HS2 are set out, in order to contextualise examples taken from relevant publications. The relationship between landscape, infrastructure, politics and language is explored, and the concept of hegemony is applied to the language of landscape. A close analysis of examples of the Department for Transport’s use of language to describe the present and future landscapes of HS2 identifies and explores two emerging themes. These are firstly, the language of the north/south divide, and secondly the language used to describe the anticipated connecting and severing of places.
In conclusion, the language of the ‘promotion’ of HS2 is found to be at odds with the concept of landscape justice as it attempts to conceal and distract from the inequality in distribution of benefits and disbenefits arising from the new infrastructure.