In these tough financial times, we can’t expect our public services to run the way they always used to. The days of government subsidy are over. Hospitals, schools, old people, making George Osborne’s hair look like the plastic helmet hair of a Lego man: all these things cost money. There isn’t enough to go round.
That’s why, increasingly, public services are being run as public-private partnerships, where stakeholders outside the public sector are brought in to invest and improve our services. One of the latest examples of this, and the most innovative, has been the pairing of Manchester’s tram network with celebrity spaceman William Shatner.
Shatner has pledged to invest £2.3 billion in Manchester’s trams over the next fifteen years, renewing the vehicle fleet and upgrading passenger information services. In return, he gets a major boost to his profile, with his face adorning the new tram livery and his voice used for automated announcements. To complete the effect, his unique style of speech has also been replicated in writing.
The dawn of the Shatnerlink era is just the latest step in the long-running association between trams and space travel, and looks set to ensure that Manchester continues to have a world-class transport network and that William Shatner remains reasonably famous.