London last night. A birthday bash in a boozer near London Bridge. On entering the pub my heart sank. Rows and rows of young automata sitting on stools gazing up being “entertained at” by a TV screen showing football. No conversation. No shenanigans on the terraces. Just sit on your stool and drink your beer.
However, a brief word with the barman, a door appeared where no door had been and I was escorted up stairs to drink excellent pints of Harvey’s and talk of Ebbsfleet, Canterbury, SQL, medical conditions, Europe, Christmas and football (Charlton 4, Northampton 1).
Returning home I noted how dismal were the seats compared to a recent trip to Oslo. British trains are becoming progressively more uncomfortable. Last night was a ghastly experience. The train lurched about and I was shaken around like a cat in a tumble dryer. The new trains and stations are very smart of course. The robotic doors, illuminated displays and automated announcements more reminiscent of Hollywood Science Fiction than Stephenson’s Rocket but the ride quality is crap! One impetus for this deterioration is the alliance betwen corporate greed and left wing iresponsibiity. A sort of metropolitican arrogance. The corporations want an endless supply of cheap labour and the left persue a doctrine that anything other than an ever expanding population equals facism. So when a business wants more office space they ignore the residents of Rotherham or Blackburn or Weymouth who sit idle outside betting shops and they build The Shard bang in the middle of London. Business gets cheap labour, close to other busineses and the London Left get to boast about London’s GDP and call themselevs a World City. Meanwhile the rail links have to cope with another 3000 passengers!
Make the trains hold more people but keep the price down. Consequently new trains on the Brighton line have fewer seats and more room for standing. The seats remaining have only half an inch of carpet to sit on and the seats next to the window only suitable for one legged passengers as a metal box runs the entire length of the carriage where one’s other leg would normally rest.
Bollocks to the passengers, it’s only an hour and fifteen! So what if many of them are approaching retirement and their knees are giving out, many more will be too young to remember comfortable rail travel.
It’s not all the fault of efficiency of course. Safety plays its part. On London Bridge enormous bollards have been placed to prevent Johnny Terrorist driving vehicles along the pavement. Considering the times we live in it’s a good idea but having been part of the vast lemming like horde who crosses the bridge every day this constriction must be infuriating to commuters. While I type BBC Radio 4 is banging on about terrorism’s effect on air travel. The twin evils of our time, efficiency and terrorism. The corporations force us into uncomfortable, restricted spaces and the terrorists pounce.
Of course terrorism is not really a problem. Incidents have actually declined in Western Europe since the 1970s and far more people die on the roads than in terrorist attacks. 1,713 on British roads in 2016.
Perhaps corporate efficiency and terrorism are conspiring to protect the planet? Perhaps the fear of terrorism and the abhorrence of Southern Rail will deter us from travelling and thereby reduce our carbon emissions?