The Duke of Edinburgh toured part of the vast Crossrail project in London yesterday, to check on the progress of one of the UK’s most important infrastructure projects.
Prince Philip, who walked and chatted to workers on the Farringdon site, demonstrated once again how remarkably fit and energetic he is for a man of almost 95.
The £15 billion scheme is set to open in 2013, and will link Reading in Berkshire, in the west, to Shenfield in Essex, in the east.
The current UK government has made clear its commitment to major infrastructure projects, which is as it should be in a country such as Britain that led the world in engineering and daring infrastructure projects in the Victorian age.
In Northern Ireland, it would be good if Stormont could embrace a similar shift towards infrastructure spending.
It is becoming increasingly clear how much money in the Province has been wasted on the excesses on welfare.
This is not to say for a moment that most or even a large minority of welfare spending has been wasted. Merely, that a very large amount of money in absolute terms has been squandered due to failures such as the lack of a benefits cap and the dramatic increase in Disability Living Allowance payments (this newspaper recently revealed that 11 per cent of the population is now on DLA, and the increase in the annual cost is £200 million a year).
It is increasingly hard to find a politician, even in Sinn Fein, who argues with any passion that such excess is a sensible priority when other areas of public life are desperate for cash.
In terms of infrastructure, there are umpteen schemes that could use that money, from the A5 dual carriageway plan to the A6 dual carriageway plan to Londonderry, to a serious upgrade of our rail links to the north west and to Dublin.
As suggested in this column yesterday, welfare reform might even free up enough money for Sinn Fein’s current pet project, burying the north-south Interconnector.