A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

National Express - Oh!

It comes as no surprise that the East Coast Main Line is to be nationalised. Or should I say, Post Clause Four New Labour, "placed into state ownership". New Labour is the party for euphemisms. The truth is that the British travelling public and the British transport industry have long since ceased to see eye to eye. Most people grumble about the trains. Even today, with the sun shining gloriously, I bet there are people grumbling. It's the English disease. We are fools to ourselves sometimes.

Heaven's above, we invented the trains. Stephenson, Trevithick, all those people sitting around waiting for their boiler burners to shift into action, they would be aghast at our indecisions, our painful inadequacies at ever knowing what we want.

There's a BBC4 programme about airports on at the moment. A woman who knew the village of Heathrow before the planners descended wondered aloud about the craziness of it all. Discussing the marshiness of the area and the propensity for fog she opined "Makes you wonder why they ever built an airport there in the first place". They being the ones who think they know best.

So is it any surprise that the chief executive of National Express has done a bunk and cleared off to richer pastures in the Middle East? Not really. Let's hope he'll be able to shift those sands about in order to keep the United Arab Emirate trains running on time. Back in England the same old nonsense will continue. Of course, Bob Crow is crowing. He wants the whole privatised rail system to collapse so he can turn himself from scraggy crow to imperial phoenix.

I was always in favour of privatised railways. Still am. But not this nonsense. The government sells off the franchises as a way to make cash. Let them make their money through the proper ways - taxation. If we had Railtrack as a properly invested organisation maintaining an ongoing rail improvement programme that would be fine. Then the property side of the old British Rail should be put in the hands of companies who can turn stations, car parks and commercial units into places that the travelling public wants to come to. Decent shops, nice cafes. There are still too many grubby stations with nothing to do, with filthy toilets and surly staff. Then the train companies should be put into order. Commuter trains should be just that. Trains for commuters. Season ticket holders only. Then local trains for a local service. Finally, the intercity trains should be only for intercity travel. It's no good stopping at Coventry for a whole load of local commuters to get on each looking for a seat which isn't theirs.

The idea of thinking that it is OK to be late for a train has to stop. Just jumping on and hoping for the best - No. It has to be no ticket no seat. The trains run at a loss because the companies are running a 1940's concept in the 21st Century. Can you imagine getting on a Ryanair flight with no ticket? The train industry is far to sloppy.

National Express has run out of puff! However, Lord Adonis blowing the whistle and waving a red flag about (or is it a shade pink with him?) will not do at all. We need a radical plan to bring the railway industry up to scratch. Both sides need to get their brains into a different gear. It can be done. I was so glad I had a schoolmaster from Ulster who boomed at each one of us "There's no such word as can't, boy!"

Let's drop the negativity, the doom and gloom. Let's get the trains really chugging along!


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