Sunday, July 29, 2007

All aboard the Shite train

The UK government has recently announced ‘major’ plans to upgrade the ailing rail network across the entire country. They’ve called it, in a typical blat of spin-induced frenzy, “the most ambitious plans for expanding the railway for 50 years”. Oh, my sides - the sheer hilarity...

I’m not sure whether the government believes that everyone in the UK has never been abroad and seen decent rail services for themselves, or whether they just don’t give a shit what the public think, but the plans amount to a publicly-funded, cheap-ass, low-rent patch-up job on a network that was eviscerated in the 1960s and hasn’t looked forward since.

‘Ground-breaking’ ideas like making platforms longer, chucking more trains on the already congested network and opening up the congested bottlenecks like Birmingham New Street and Reading. All of this is to be phased in across the next seven years and, once we get to 2014, will be evidently not enough and a new plan will have to be drawn up that takes into account that this one was the work of a conclave of retards.

Oh, but they have ruled out Maglev trains as they’re too expensive. Whoop-de-doo. And there was I, thinking that we’d all be given free jetpacks at our destinations by girls with purple hair wearing silver mini-skirts. Actually, I wonder if we can work that last bit in somehow... ;-)

At the risk of dredging up the ghost of the corrupt imbecile Beeching and his rail ‘reforms’ (look it up under “butchery” in the dictionary), there needs to be a little more forward thinking going on here. Otherwise, you can just give the money to me and I’ll burn it out on the patio. The rail users will be just as pissed off either way. Like it or not (and I happen to love it), the UK is part of Europe and really ought to start behaving appropriately. A long-term plan for adopting the continental loading gauges (the size of the trains themselves, not the distance between the rails, which is generally the same) would be much easier to implement. If the station platforms are going to be altered make them longer, why not make them lower and slightly further away from the trains? This would mean that continental rolling stock and (here comes the sucker punch of the whole piece) double-decker trains can start to be used, dramatically increasing passenger loads without cramming humans in like cargo.

Cattle get more space per animal when transported than humans. Bear that in mind...

In the 1890s, a real visionary by the name of Edward Watkin, chair of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway decided to expand and build its own line into London. Other rail companies were charging extortionate rates for use of their lines, and he also had another plan up his sleeve. Adopting the continental loading gauge, he wanted eventually to build a tunnel under the English Channel (or La Manche - “The Sleeve”, from the less proprietorial French perspective) and have a direct rail link to the mainland. One which would, rather handily, automatically be able to send trains through to his line with no adaptation or restrictions. History, in the shape of World War 1 and the financial overstretch of building the line (over £11 million) were sadly against the plans of the ambitious Great Central Railway.

As part of Doctor Beeching’s narrow-minded The Reshaping of British Railways (if you take out the “esh” in the first word, you get a much closer approximation of what he actually did...), the GCR was closed, much of its track was lifted, and only small sections remain in the hands of enthusiasts who just won’t let it die. Good for them.

Now, bearing in mind that there are lots of derelict track-beds about (yes, I know they’re not all complete now and some re-routing will have to take place), couldn’t the real re-building of the UK’s rail network begin to take place on old, abandoned routes, building a realistic network that could have the capacity for passengers and freight far exceeding those of the proposed “ambitious” plans? Yes, Birmingham and Reading desperately need expanding, but imagining that cobbling that together with a bunch of platform- and train-lengthening somehow constitutes a “plan” is the work of a gibbering syphilitic madman who grins while soiling himself.

We’re running out of space (actually, we pretty much already have run out of space) to build more roads. Most of which are either being destroyed by the amount of trucks using them, or are being clogged by them as they overtake each other at a speed differential of one mile per hour. The twats. There is a section of road between here and my mum’s which actually has permanently-installed signs warning of skidding hazards. Which have been caused by trucks gouging huge gullies in the roadbed of the nearside lane. These grooves, which are obviously wider than the wheelbase of most standard cars, drag the driver from side-to-side in the lane in a most disconcerting manner. Not a thought of repairing the damn surface, mind. Just a bunch of fucking signs.

I suppose one could always invest in a Hummer (a truck for people with no taste who can’t drive and don’t wish to learn, but somehow ‘need’ a military vehicle) which might just be wide enough. Or maybe a Lamborghini, though that might actually be even wider...

Freight by rail is more cost-effective if there’s a decent infrastructure in place. More passengers would surely use the rail network if they didn’t feel they’d be treated like cargo and crammed onto out-of-date rolling-stock (and possibly killed in one of our increasingly frequent crash “spectaculars”). I both love using the rail networks in mainland Europe and simultaneously feel ashamed of ours whenever I travel abroad.

So, ‘government’, stop patching up an old, knackered network, start thinking a little harder and actually take responsibility for making some tough, expensive decisions that will work on the larger timescales this country needs if it isn’t going to be the laughing-stock of the rest of the world. Stop putting old farts in decision-making posts regarding technology. They don’t know what they’re on about. Just look at the NHS IT reforms and tell me these overpaid buffoons know what the difference between a hard drive and memory is.*

And stop thinking that “more roads” is the kind of solution that someone with a functioning brain-stem would do anything other than spit on. Public execution would be too good for you.

*If you think they’re the same thing, go out into the yard and shoot yourself. Do it. Do it now, you cretin. Also do it if you think that “hard drive” is the big box that you switch on. That’s called a computer, you web-fingered throwback.


At 6:48 pm, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Chuntering along very slowly today from Slough to Paddington we passed - on some other line an actual, genuine, Golden Arrow - and it's pistons were moving and it was issuing forth real steam! It must have been headed for Dreamtown, Fairyland or, maybe, Hogwarts...

At 7:44 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Oh, you lucky, lucky sod!

If you ever get the chance (and the weather holds out...) get up to Bressingham in Norfolk. There's a half-decent steam museum up there. Magical stuff. ;-)

At 11:49 pm, Blogger jimhenshaw said...

Don't fall apart laughing -- but here in the colonies, your rail system is often held up as a shining example of how we could be solving our own commuter woes.

Despite modern facilities and double decker trains, our governments live up to the requisite ineptitude of all governments by making the trips as inconvenient as they can.

Newmarket to Toronto, for example, is eminently possible in a fraction of the time it takes to drive. But the trains only run at rush hour making few (if any) stops between.

Didn't know you were a train lover, Riddley. Next time you cross the pond, we're taking you here...

At 12:40 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Oh. My. God.

The Agawa Canyon Tour is a definite, fella! I know we’ve got some pretty decent scenery over here, but that does look particularly breathtaking, I must say.

I really like the idea of them dumping you in a carriage somewhere, so you can go hiking and such in the woods. How excellent!

That, plus a revisit of that superb Korean barbecue restaurant that Caroline found. ;-)


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