Philobiblon: One man does not make a trend ....

Sunday, January 29, 2006

One man does not make a trend ....

... still, it is good to see an article in the Observer about "an increasing number of travellers turning their backs on low-cost flights" for environmental reasons.

I'll still be flying to Australia when necessary - the idea of a slow boat is not feasible by time or cost (although I know that it is possible - last time I looked the cost was roughly equivalent to first-class air, i.e. a lot), but otherwise I am trying not to fly - despite the temptation of all those 1p fares.

This article made me think of my godson and his brother in Australia. I took them to the Manly aquarium in Sydney last time I was out in Oz, by public transport, and we had a lot of fun on ferries, but waiting for the much-delayed bus that was the final step home was a little fraught.

The problem was - well one problem was - that they are simply unused to using public transport. They wanted me to call their mother to fetch them by car, because the idea of waiting for a bus was just outside their experience. (Although it would have taken her half an hour at least to reach us anyway.)

And there must be an enormous number of kids growing up that way; anything to teach them that having to wait for a bus or train etc is not the end of the world must be a good thing. Even simple rules such as "always carry a book" will not occur to people unless they've had cause to think about it.

But the Blair government will do its best to see they never learn. Whatever happened to the "green" Tony?

"Ministers are preparing ways of closing or "mothballing" large sections of the railway network, according to an official document which was slipped out without publicity last week.
Dozens of branch lines and secondary routes could shut, in what would be the biggest rethink of the network since the Beeching report in the 1960s, which led to the closure of 4,000 miles of railway and nearly half the nation's stations. Loss-making services would be transferred on to buses, as a means of reducing the £6bn-a-year subsidy.
An army of consultants will decide whether lines should stay open or close. A law passed last year has reduced the right of passengers to object to closures.
The 83-page consultation paper uses a new kind of cost-benefit analysis, which, experts say, will highlight the economically fragile state of the network. Such analysis often penalises trains because it fails to take into account that they are environmentally friendly. As one senior rail industry figure put it last night: "The trouble with consultants is they will do exactly what ministers want them to do."


Blogger clanger said...

Circa Beeching, nobody had heard of class actions for consequential loss. Whilst the govt. can ban objections, they can't ban legal actions for the loss consequent to losing a rail link, based on the evidence of the consequences of the Beeching cuts. Jarndyce v. Jarndyce anyone?

In the Midlands, the rail service is complete crap. Down south there are lovely 4-, 8-, and 12-carriage trains. In the midlands, they have as many passengers, but use 1- and 2- carriage shuttle trains originally designed for suburban 'hops'. Bad idea.

Worse, they have much smaller gangways, no mid-carriage doors, higher seats, and smaller, higher windows. Given that many have 20-40 standing passengers per carriage on busy routes, if one crashed, nobody would get out. Human jam.

I asked, and the official line is that trains are the only form of public transport with no passenger limit. I was actually told that standing passengers would be safer!

Having travelled on trains all my life, I avoid them in the midlands for safety reasons, and actually got off one as I felt it was no longer safe. Faced with a succession of physically full trains, I took a £40 taxi ride rather than wait (in sub-zero temperatures) for another hour to complete my £5 rail journey. By a bizarre twist of irony, a govt. minister-the local MP-did actually get on one of the overstuffed trains.

To experience these delights, try the Sheffield to Doncaster line, via Sheffield Meadowhall (a large shopping mall), on a Saturday afternoon, when some of the dozen league football clubs served by the local rail lines are playing.

A good govt. would expand the system, and take the opportunities offered by terrible private rail services to relieve franchise holders of their burden (cf. Connex).

Of course we don't have a good govt. We have a bad govt. and a worse opposition. Legal action is probably our last best hope.

Still, interesting to contemplate what US-puppet and incompetent ego-maniac Blair will be remembered for.

And let's not forget who privatised the rail network in the first place, delivering it into the hands of the spiv economy, just before, environmentally, we were to realise that we needed it most.

And they wonder why people don't bother to vote for any of them.

1/29/2006 11:14:00 am  

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