Saturday, June 14, 2008

Trains in Britain...

...and their duties to their shareholders

For a very long time, the railway system has been one of the biggest scandals of today's Britain. Ok, let's just say it, since British Rail was privatised. For years, we've been negotiating our way around a maze of train fares, "journey planners", advance bookings and arcane notions of "peak-time". But the scandal was something you wouldn't hear about. At best (or worst), the media would report news of train crashing or derailing. But Virgin and the rest making obscene amounts of money and receiving obscene state subsidies....? Nah...It's the market, ennit? The best providers, aren't they?

Nobody could have put it any better than Mark Steel. Take a look at this brilliant article from The Independent online. There, at last, a true, thorough and honest look at the state of trains in 21st century Britain. In no specific order:

- the packed few 2nd class carriages and the never-ending succession of empty first class ones;

- the extortionate prices unless you book 7 months in advance when the moon is at a certain angle and you're between 5'5 and 5'7 tall and your surname contains between 3 and 4 vowels;

- the appalling delays;

- the perennial "engineering works" that have been disrupting lines (especially Sundays) for 10 years at least.
The answer? "No private company is going to run a railway because they want to run a railway. They have a duty to their shareholders," Mark Steel was told by a PR man.

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