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December 08, 2005



So THAT's why the trains here are always late.


But wouldn't that make them go faster? On the other hand perhaps better not to speculate too much on what went on inside that driver's compartment (or his mind) ...


Nah, undressing would make him slow down so that he can enjoy the view. Which view, I dare not speculate.

Seriously, train delays are driving me up the wall. Of all the trips I've taken, I'd say 2 in 5 were late--very late. I've even had one cancellation, which caused me to be absent from a conference. I wouldn't be complaining so much if the prices weren't so high, but they are outrageous. If it weren't for my railcard, I'd never travel by train.

Has it always been this bad? I thought privatization would make things better.


This is a subject on which I can speak with feeling. What you say is exactly right -- you could forgive the appalling service, the filthy toilets, and the poor safety record if you were paying Third World prices. Instead you are paying the same or more than Germans for a service that most developing countries would be ashamed of.

Britain used to have one of the best train services in the world but indifference and incompetence by successive governments has made it one of the worst.

The Tories started the rot, first by starving British Rail of funds and then, in one of the last acts of John Major's government, conducting one of the most cack-handed privatizations you could hope to see. The ludicrous idea of having one company running the track and an integrated system split up into numerous franchises has been a complete disaster for the traveller.

Blair has been no better. He could have stopped the privatization (by guaranteeing to renationalize immediately after a Labour victory). That would have stopped the privatization in its tracks and he was urged to take this approach. However, in that smug way way he has that makes you want to punch him on the nose, Blair said that "nationalization of the railways would hardly be one of the priorities of a Labour government". In the event of course the Government had to nationalize Railtrack after its bankruptcy (not to mention a string of accidents caused by its negligence).

There is a very simple reason why the train system is so crap. The people who make the decisions don't use it. If they had to spend a few hours out on a windswept platform with the likes of you and me do you think it would still be this bad?


What a shame. I think it's amazing how the whole of Britain is connected by rail. Coming from an archipelago, I have always marveled how Europeans can just hop on a train from one *country* to another. Here in the UK, the infrastructure already exists; the system just needs to be run efficiently. I can't understand why it can't be done with all that money. And train fares are rising again next year!

Yeah, I'd like to see Tony Effing Blair shiver on an icy platform and wait for a train that never comes. AND pay £40 for it.

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