I have made several train journeys in the past few weeks. So has my husband. So have many friends of mine. All to different places, on different networks, on different days, at different times and of different lengths, from the ordinary commute to intercity extravaganzas. Not one has completed their journey without some sort of problem. There have been breakdowns (of entire trains or important bits of them, like doors), signal failures, unspecified emergencies, a shortage of drivers, unexplained delays, damaged rails, closed platforms, “incidents”, electrical interruptions and assorted other miseries.

Hours of time have been lost both personally and professionally as a result. Work meetings or site visits have to be hastily rescheduled or go unattended, with all the knock on effects and inefficiencies of that. Taxis are cancelled, buggering up – maybe just slightly, maybe a lot – matters at the cab business end of things. Hospital and other rare and vital appointments to do with health, strength and sanity are missed.

Because no one (with the possible exception of one of my uncles, an avid trainspotter in his youth and now with time enough on his retired hands to take trips simply for the pleasure of riding the rails. Do say hello if you see him) is taking a train journey for no purpose.

Every single person has somewhere to get to and something to do when they get there. The work hours, the rippling rearrangements taking bites out of our time and resources, the money lost and the ineffable stress caused by not getting there on time to do those things are incalculable. Especially for those with disabilities for whom the logistics and extra arrangements and planning required for any travel is already a ridiculously (and, largely avoidably, were the political will and capital there to make it otherwise) burdensome matter.

As I sat on my second train (first broken, this one delayed) about halfway through what would become a five hour journey that should have taken three – which means, among other things, 60 per cent more exposure to crisp eaters, music-without-headphones players and ineffectual parents of very effectual toddlers – and my mind cast increasingly desperately around for comfort, I found this: there is a weird kind of relief in tangible signs that the country is broken.

I hate arguing in the abstract. I much prefer to be able, when people say things such as “But the economy has grown by bleurgh per cent since blah-di-date! And the media wildly exaggerates the state of blerky blump and the impact of blumpty bloo!” to respond “Maybe, maybe not. These things you have just said seem to me to be riddled with assumptions and given only the barest appearance of solidity by the use of the kind of endlessly manipulable figures and statistics that we should no more trust than we should the men who came up offering us sweets and a look at puppies in their van when we were children.

“But! I know for a fact you can’t reliably get from one place on this tiny, tiny island to another place, be it even only a 10 minute train ride away, and that we are all therefore essentially buggered.”

Because what does not being able to get reliably from A to B mean? It means all practical parts of government, of policy, of business/privatisation have failed. And failed in a way that really matters to people, that has real, immediately felt effects.

Dependence on a public transport system is dependence on government. Trains and buses are our daily proxies for MPs and ministers. When they are not working, it gives the lie to – well, all their lies about how everything under the ruling party is always getting better, all the time. I like that. In an ever-roiling sea of half-truths and untruths I like being able to hang on to an immoveable rock. As immoveable, apparently, as this train that is making me late for three days of dutiful family visits, accompaniment to a dental appointment with a phobic friend, two work meetings, and a christening – an itinerary which was planned with military precision and is now shot to shit.

It gives me hope that things will change. That things are now so obviously bad that the polls cannot be lying any more. That when the latest (at time of going to press) poll shows that the Tories will be lucky to keep a hundred seats while Labour gather in the rest, that the long-promised landslide will, come May, come autumn, whenever the nerveless Conservative fingers finally push the button, arrive. I don’t say that Keir Starmer et al have all the answers or that they meet with my unadulterated approval. But we cannot stay as stuck as I am now, just outside London’s Kings Cross, in a system and a country as broken as this one. Mainly because someone has just opened a large packet of Kettle Chips and there’s about to be murder done. Excuse me.

QOSHE - We can’t get from A to B and it might just be the Government’s downfall - Lucy Mangan
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

We can’t get from A to B and it might just be the Government’s downfall

27 15
31.03.2024

I have made several train journeys in the past few weeks. So has my husband. So have many friends of mine. All to different places, on different networks, on different days, at different times and of different lengths, from the ordinary commute to intercity extravaganzas. Not one has completed their journey without some sort of problem. There have been breakdowns (of entire trains or important bits of them, like doors), signal failures, unspecified emergencies, a shortage of drivers, unexplained delays, damaged rails, closed platforms, “incidents”, electrical interruptions and assorted other miseries.

Hours of time have been lost both personally and professionally as a result. Work meetings or site visits have to be hastily rescheduled or go unattended, with all the knock on effects and inefficiencies of that. Taxis are cancelled, buggering up – maybe just slightly, maybe a lot – matters at the cab business end of things. Hospital and other rare and vital appointments to do with health, strength and sanity are missed.

Because no one (with the possible exception of one of my uncles, an avid trainspotter in his youth and now with time enough on his retired hands to take trips simply for the pleasure........

© iNews


Get it on Google Play