Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Going Off The Rails
According to today's news, 'Overcrowding on British trains is set to get much worse'.
And this despite the continuing rise in ticket prices out of all proportion to inflation or any other unarbitary known measure.
Many commuters now pay thousands of pounds a year for season tickets, only to be treated no better than cattle and little better than the denizens of Calcutta.
Aeroplanes and coaches are compelled by law to provide a seat for every passenger with a seat belt and to restrict ticket sales according to available seats.
Trains appear to enjoy immunity from all such Health and Safety legislation and an apparently limitless capacity to sell tickets for the same oversubscribed under-carriaged journey.
Medical experts have warned of the increased risk of DVT to passengers forced to stand in cramped overheated conditions for too long.
Not that this prevents sinister 'Revenue Protection Officers' (no longer 'ticket collectors') targetting particular commuter hotspots at rush hour in order to issue tickets en masse to those who've been forced en-masse into the wrong bit of the carriage by the sheer volume of commuters getting on.
Yet our Swiss and German counterparts transport vast numbers of their populace on trains every day with seemingly few problems.
Why is Britain (embarrassingly, land of the train's inventor, George Stephenson in 1822), so pathetic at offering a service even on a par with what the Victorians would have expected, bar the speed when a train actually moves?
The Victorians were miles more advanced than we at providing consistent pricing structures, timetabling and reliable movement around the country and to many more destinations, not to mention providing civilised public conveniences and 'waiting rooms' at their stations, despite being run by a number of different private companies. Their open-carriaged 'Third Class' does not sound so bad after all once you've sampled a peak-time London train (another reason my heart sank when we won the bid to host the Olympics in London next year).
As for the Green arguments for rail travel, I would counter that the appalling conditions and exorbitant price of rail travel are more likely to drive people into the arms of their nearest car showroom dealer than otherwise. At least they get to die in the comfort of their own posture-adjusted seat when terminal gridlock finally sets in.