On the privatised rail network

January 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Alex Gabriel at Political Promise has a sort-of-rant about the trains. I’m not sure how accurate the figures are Alex uses but they sound about right…

If Arriva run the train you need and you’d rather travel with Virgin, tough. Unlike buying most other things, we don’t get to choose the superior brand. The companies aren’t really competing, either, because we have to travel with whichever one has trains at the right time. They might as well have the monopoly that the Conservatives promised they’d take from British Rail, because there’s no real choice of service involved: we board the train irrespective of how good or bad it is, or else we can’t make our journey.

The same applies to public transport in general. Fields, lakes and mountains surround my hometown, and when last I checked it cost £10 for the twenty minute journey to the next town. Long distance bus companies which compete for better prices will take you from Manchester to London for half that, but local companies – like rail firms – can be as exploitative as they like because people who use them have no choice.

They’re not accountable, efficient or cheap, but don’t the train companies at least strengthen the economy with their profits? Well, no. Salford University published a paper which found that in 2002-3, taxpayers paid subsidies of £1.34bn to prop up the rail industry. That’s right – we’re actually paying them to rip us off, and they wouldn’t be profitable if we didn’t.

When British Rail existed, it received £1.07bn of the same subsidies, so ironically train travel is more tax-funded now than then. National Rail even gets £20bn a year from general taxation to keep it going. The Thatcherites said not to fund unprofitable industries with public money, but that’s exactly the situation we’re in – except with all privatisation’s downsides and none of its benefits.

Sometimes there is no market and trying to create one just doesn’t work.

Lord Adonis, help us, please!

December 23rd, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

OUTRAGED travellers demanded last night that Transport Secretary Lord Adonis return from holiday to tackle the UK’s travel nightmare.
The Cabinet minister had sloped off to a luxury Alpine skiing holiday in Austria while Britons slid and shivered on roads, railways and airport floors.

The above piece isn’t exactly a lie, which is why I’m posting here rather than at The Sun Lies, except that maybe travellers, although outraged, aren’t demanding Lord Adonis cut short his christmas holiday, as most probably didn’t even realise he was on holiday. The reader doesn’t find out, no travellers are quoted in the article, only bods from organisations and the like.

What has pee’d me off about this article is the way that the Sun starts off screaming about Lord Adonis ‘sloping’* off for a ski holiday while the country grinds to a halt.

*From the Suns’ position, that is a fantastic pun. Not only does it fit with Adonis going on the piste**, but it aslo goes with the sneaky, useless Labour government narrative.

**apologies for that one.

The next paragraph carries on the narrative by introducing the bumbling sidekick…

Lord Adonis, 46, left his hapless deputy Sadiq Khan to face the avalanche of fury over cancellations, delays and the road gritting shambles.

That’s the groundwork for the piece laid down: the boss has snuk (sneaked?) off and left his bumbling deputy to cope.
Naturally the shadow local government minister is gonna have pop and say that Adonis should come back, via airports that are closed, to help out with a shovel and a bag of grit.

Once all that is set up there follows a great long list of things that have happened because of the cold, as if it’s Lord Adonis’ fault:

Nine people have died during the cold snap as temperatures plunged to as low as -16C in some parts of the UK.

Two women were killed and almost 50 injured when a coach overturned on icy roads in Cornwall late last night.

In Northamptonshire Paul Litchfield, 30, and Philip Sturridge, 42, drowned as they tried to rescue their pet Labrador from a frozen lake near Ringstead.

Adonis should’ve been handing out thermal underwear, and called the bus company to tell them not to send the driver out and gone onto the frozen lake himself instead of making those two chaps go out on the thin ice themselves to rescue a fucking dog.

In Sale, Greater Manchester, recovery worker Denis Livesly, 60, was killed as he attended to a car in a snowstorm on the M60 motorway.

Malcolm Brown, 32, was also killed in Basingstoke, Hampshire, when a deer smashed through his windscreen during a blizzard.

On the island of Lewis 35-year-old electrician Donald Martin froze to death after locking himself out of his home after a Christmas party.

How could Adonis have prevented Mr Livesly from dying? Deers are a nightmare whatever the weather, is it Adonis’ fault Donald Martin didn’t have the sense to smash a window to get back in his home?

There’s more stories about people trying to save their dogs and people dying after slipping on ice and aeroplanes slipping off the end of runways and trains and the Royal Mail and Asda and Eurostar and roads and… and… and…

If only Lord Adonis was here. The country would be able to stop being so shit at bad weather.

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