Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chuffing 'eck

I've started and abandoned a few posts this week; perhaps another time for those, when I'm in a mood where I won't frighten the horses.

Instead, let us consider the railway system. Regular readers (bless you both) will know that I depend on public transport for to get me anywhere more than a couple of miles away. I try not to bore you with it because it bores me silly: time was when you'd go to a station, get a train, get off, job done but that seems like another world of childish enchantment these days. What few trains still stop at our local station are ageing rattlers from the early eighties packed to the ginnels with pissed-off passengers and running late on principle.

It annoys me to see the rail adverts on the telly. The journey from London to Manchester on Virgin is portrayed as a carnival of comfort, ease and romantic discovery. I'm still shouting at the screen a quarter of an hour after the advert's been and gone. If that's not bad enough, there's another one which portrays passengers as sheep: OK it's honest but you'd think that even these days they'd have a bit of shame about it. Mind you, if we were sheep we'd get better conditions of travel.

Like the Post Office, the government's anti-poverty agencies and the House of Commons Fees Office, the railway system Must Make A Profit. Quite why is beyond me. The railway system, like the Post Office, is part of our national infrastructure: it is the stuff that facilitates the profit-making elements of the economy. If you fuck up the infrastructure you fuck up the business, which is why Tesco makes a huge profit with its fleet of new vans and that bloke with a Transit van up on bricks isn't going to cut it in the Logistics Sector (remember when it was 'transport' or 'haulage?')

Strangely enough, the road network isn't required to make a profit, even when road charging is being applied. It would be interesting to apply the same criteria to roads as apply to rail...

One of the reasons why we're down on trains is "lack of demand." The trains still steam through once every half hour, they just don't stop. It would be no great hardship to stop, just three minutes for the on/offs, which is within with the five minutes the train sits at the signals just outside Castlefield waiting for its slot into Manchester. But there's no demand. The Sons of Beeching reckon that outside standard commuting hours there is no need for anybody to use small suburban halts, so by not providing the service they can demonstrate that there's no demand. Furthermore, if there's no demand then perhaps there's a need to wind the station down...

Imagine this thinking being applied to your small suburban roads: how many vehicles per hour do you get down your road? I live on a bus route that's also a rat run for emergency vehicles wanting to avoid the motorway traffic. Outside the school run I reckon that typical weekday traffic down our road is about half a dozen vehicles an hour (including the buses). If it were a rail line it would be closed down and grubbed up. The myriad closes and cul-de-sacs of suburban England would be even quieter. So you'd not be able to drive your car up to your house, you'd have to park up at the end of the 'viable' stretch of roadway, which may be miles away and make your way home by shanks' - or even literal - pony.

If you had to do that at each end of every car journey you'd not be inclined to do so very much driving. Which is one way of cutting down the carbon footprint of the nation. But no, instead we impose this model on our public transport, thus increasing the carbon footprint. After all, if it's a five- or ten-mile car journey to the train station to catch an unreliable, old, grubby train with poor connections to the other services involved in your journey why wouldn't you just keep on driving?

Ernest Marples at least had a financial interest in putting Beeching up to chopping up the network. I can see no motive for his successors save that they are utter fuckwits.

10 comments:

Lulu LaBonne said...

The UK network is shocking - every time I use it I wonder why I've chosen such a time-consuming and expensive way of getting about.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I'm a railway fan and am with you on this. The only way to reopen disused "Beechinged" lines seems to be to get a few lovely old steam locos and some (unpaid) enthusiasts to run them. I'm proud to say that I wrote the Wikipedia entry for these lines in Romania, though not so proud that I've so far encouraged few to come from UK to visit them :-(

inkspot said...

It's not that the people in charge of us are fuckwits (maybe they are, but we elected them), rather that nothing in the UK is ever discussed except at the level of gossip.

Gaw said...

Well said, Kevin. I like the trains and use them when I can. But I'm afraid their problems fall into the category of 'things everyone knows should be fixed but for mysterious reasons never are'. And because we're totally broke now they won't be for the foreseeable future.

KAZ said...

'Wind the station down'- You are thinking of Mossley again aren't you?
Thanks for this - you got it off my chest.

Scarlet-Blue said...

In the early eighties I was travelling on trains from the early sixties. thus my question is: What were the trains from the early eighties doing?
Sx

Scarlet-Blue said...

P.S I think I should run some train ads!
Sx

Madame DeFarge said...

Don't get me started on rail fare increases. I'm faced with my third rise in year and for no particular reason. My salary isn't going up that much, but I'm faced with increased fares, restricted cheap tickets, retimed trains and a general sens eof humptiness about the state of the nation.

savannah said...

i do wonder what happens to people once they are elected to government office. do they forget what it was like being a citizen? it happens here, too. i hope your situation gets sorted out soon, darlin. perhaps, you need a celebrity spokesperson to champion y'alls cause.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I appear to have hit a nerve. (-:

I'll say no more about our rail services lest I go off one one.

Ditto our politicians.