My, some folk have been quick off the mark this year: the government on high-speed rail, Masdar on its zero-carbon accounts, Bellway’s boss on getting to work, and nearly all Dubai on Dubai’s great ‘secret’

Top speeds

Transport minister Geoff Hoon shelved a £5bn road-widening plan last week and instead announced the formation of a company called “High Speed 2” to examine the feasibility of a TGV-style London-to-Scotland rail link. But a quick search at Companies House reveals that the government has also registered the names High Speed 3 to 6. With construction of the £16bn Crossrail project officially kicking off this week, could this be the start of a rail bonanza for the construction industry?

Who let the dogs out?

Psst! Which celebrated British architect got into a row with a prestigious London architectural school? It seems a creative student used images of the architect in an end-of-year project last year. This included a mocked-up funeral cortege, featuring the esteemed designer buried alongside employees past and present in a pastiche of a Chinese emperor surrounded by terracotta warriors. The architect’s “people” reacted badly, calling for the poor pupil’s head and threatening all kinds of dire repercussions. However, when the architect himself found out what had happened, he called off the hounds and phoned the student to apologise personally. Which begs the question: just how much control do these starchitects have over their entourages?

Chercher le boss

I wonder if Bellway boss John Watson grasps the full impact of the recent row with shareholders over the directors’ generous bonuses. Contacted by Building at an admittedly early hour last Monday, the likeable chief exec was more concerned with finishing his breakfast than defending his £275,000 payment. This Monday, following the shareholder revolt, an 8.15am call found Watson in his car in the Newcastle rush hour. Given the frenzied media coverage of the row I was perhaps a little surprised not to find him already at his desk.

Tower of babble

Dubai’s most closely-guarded secret is no more. On our recent visit to the world’s tallest structure, the Burj Dubai, the project director from contractor Besix refused to confirm persistent rumours that the tower has reached a final height of 818m on the grounds that developer Emaar was desperate to keep it secret until its opening on 9 September. We even heard the magic figure from our driver, who had been told by a builder on the tower itself “at a party”. Even Wikipedia’s on to it. What more proof do you need?

A grave matter

What We Pay Our Taxes For, part 28. This week, the Ministry of Justice issued long-awaited practical advice for “burial ground operators” on “managing the risks associated with unstable memorials”. Or, looking after graveyards. The 17-page document admits the risk of injury by gravestone is “very low”, but advises that a visual or hand check can help assess hazards. If you are confused as to how a “hand check” is administered, the Ministry of Justice can help: “By standing to one side of the memorial and applying a firm but steady pressure in different directions to determine to what degree, if any, the headstone is loose.” Next week: How To Tie Your Shoelaces.

Just Add another zero

Masdar, the “zero-carbon city” under construction in Abu Dhabi, has had its already dubious environmental credentials damaged yet further by whispers that their definition of zero carbon is somewhat less than all-encompassing. We hear that the carbon footprint of the international consultants being flown back and forth to help design the city – some on monthly 7,000–mile round trips - is not being accounted for as part of the push towards zero-carbon. Given that these flights must add up to several thousand tonnes of CO2, you have to wonder what else isn’t being included on Masdar’s green “balance sheet”.

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