Nonsense, he retorted, the link was being "pursued with vigour" - ignoring the fact that it won't be open until 2002 at the earliest. For his capacity to smother reality with bureaucratic nonsense, Sir P ought to be in line for one of the performance-related bonuses due to be handed out to top civil servants.
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So now we have an official definition of urgency, and it's enough to turn Sir Humphrey green with envy. Sir Patrick Brown, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Transport, was ready with a crisp rejection when the Ombudsman attacked his ministry last week for the misery caused by the four-year "period of limbo" before deciding the precise route for the fast link to the Chunnel.