Tuesday, 10 June 2008
A Train Post - I know It's A Bit Late But That's Trains
I endured about eleven years of commuting on trains, both British Rail and Virgin/Silverlink and have to say that British Rail was better because it was cheaper. Those eleven years (or eleven thousand in train years) travel taught me that railways are a nineteenth century idea struggling for a twentieth or twenty-first century solution. Now I like preserved steam locomotive railway societies because steam locomotives were ideal for the pace of nineteenth century life and because the steam loco is the ideal vehicle since it can make a cooked breakfast and pot of tea as well. But the railway industry is a money sucking monster that should be run for the benefit of the passenger within the public sector. Strict freemarketeers bleat that only private companies can run railways effiently. A bit of fact may be helpful here: private railway companies went bankrupt on a regular basis. Even the airline business has been an overall loss maker. Thank goodness for new sources of capital springing up to revive airlines finances or start new companies. And the strictest freemarketeers say that they should only pay for precisely what they consume (I bet they are fun in restaurants) but they would baulk at pavement charges or Air(copyright) usage. Public transport should be run as a public service: the consumer would soon stagger his journey times to avoid rush hours and spread usage throughout the day. No need for variable pricing.
Anyway, to the matter of Network Rail and its decision to award its senior managers (14% smaller yet still large) performance bonuses despite presiding over a massive overrunning cock-up at Rugby in the Christmas and New Year break. I like the explanation from their Chief Executive, Ian Coucher, who said that he wouldn't refuse his bonus like the BA boss after the Terminal 5 fiasco: “Mr Walsh took his judgment personally. We run a very different operation to BA. It opened one big project. We do that sort of thing every weekend. Every year we do 5,000 projects and we completed 4,950 successfully."
That reminds me of an old joke:
A young man moves to a village in Wales and gets talking to an old man from the village. He asks the old man what his name is; the old man gets very irate at this point and says: "See that line of houses over there? I built them all, but do they call me Jones the house builder? Do they hell! See those railway lines over there? I laid them all, but do they call me Jones the engineer? Do they hell! See those bridges over that river? I built them all, but do they call me Jones the bridge builder? Do they hell! But, a long long time ago, I screwed one sheep..."