A Sense of Humour Failure

It was a difficult weekend.  Time spent in the Province wasn’t too excruciating, but the journey to get there made me want to abseil the walls of Parliament and unfurl a banner telling them clause by sub-clause where they can shove their unregulated free-market bullshit policies.  Just try to arrest me! I would scream as I catapulted copies of a variety of socialist left-leaning philosophical works into the courtyard below.

The micro-story is that the train K-man got to the airport on Friday night broke down.  It stayed broken down for so long that a journey that should have taken 25 minutes took two hours and thirty minutes. We missed our flight.

The train company could have enabled us to make the flight. Though it’s not ideal, they could have walked the passengers up the line 300m to the nearest station, where many of them would have been able to complete their journey by other means.  Instead, they were trapped inside the train for two hours longer than necessary.

They could have figured out much more quickly that the power of hope and intention alone won’t make mechanical entities functional.  They could have waited less than an hour and a half before sending a replacement engine up the line.

If they had called me for advice, I would have said here’s a clue: if a malfunctioning train is scheduled to stop at station X, and is broken down less than 300m before reaching X, it’s not the world’s best idea to simply speed through station X without stopping once you’ve got the train working again.  What about the passengers who wish to alight at station X?   At some point, I would have said, not releasing passengers from a train when the opportunity arises must surely constitute false imprisonment. What about the risk that you’ll simply break down again further up the line?

Which is exactly what happened.

Not to mention the simple human comforts of not being in pitch darkness, or without functioning toilet facilities.

The missed flight cost us the price of re-booking the red-eye next morning, a stay overnight in the budget shitty airport hotel, an evening meal and breakfast.  The train company exclude consequential loss from the terms and conditions of carriage they designed as one short sharp shove up the arse of their customers.  The best we can hope is that they will, through gritted teeth, issue forth some kind of ‘gesture of goodwill’ (one of my most hated corporate terms).   Naturally, their customer service line is a national-rate call.  It’s also perpetually busy.

The macro-story is that Thatcher *cough* *spit* sold off the state-owned railways.  British Rail was far from perfect, but it was all one national entity and shareholders were nothing but a glint in the Iron Lady’s eye.  She broke it all up, sold it all off, and pretended to regulate things like ticket prices and performance.   During the Bliar years nothing was done to reverse this.

Now, there’s the bizarre and passengerly-unsatisfactory scenario of multiple companies whose primary responsibility is to line the pockets of their shareholders. Different companies can run the same routes, so it is impossible for people to tell which ticket is valid on what train (they all have different prices and restrictions).  Yet another company owns the tracks, and another is responsible for track maintenance.  Train operators make up their own terms and conditions, and most of them have a route monopoly so they just tell you to fuck off if you dare to complain.  Passengers are bent over a barrel and whipped.

It is a debacle.  Fares are astronomical, trains are never de facto on time because the companies can make up their own definitions of ‘on time’ and give themselves de jure five minutes either side of the time-table.  Even if they routinely deliver you disastrously late they only have to give 20% of the cost of your ticket back.  I have lost count of the times I’ve been misinformed or even insulted by a train company member of staff.

Politicians don’t give two shits, because a serf drives them to work.  It was bad in the Bliar years, but it’s worse now because we have people like these two silver-spoon-sucking millionaires (neither of whom have had a proper job) running the show:

David Cameron (PM) and George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer) count their millions while the rest of us put up with hearing the financial crisis trotted out as a reason to shit all over society's most vulnerable.

Oh they sound sympathetic (though Osborne occasionally struggles) but they don’t care.  Railway franchise contracts will be renewed, and passenger complaints will be sacrificed on the altar of big money profits and future directorships.

Some fares went up by 55% this month.  And this counts as regulated!  There’s a loop-hole (of course) allowing the companies to average to their fare increases: lower a few fares for hardly-used routes by a massive percentage, and cream everybody’s behind on the over-used over-crowded routes.  They can cut peak hour services consequence-free.  They can even re-define peak hour so it includes most of the day.

All of this is perfectly within the possibilities of the joke of a regulatory system.

This when we are supposed to be encouraging people to embrace travel options with less environmental impact.  I suppose it is greener to be priced out of your commute and simply have to find somewhere you can be under-employed which is walking distance (petrol prices are at an all-time high) from the home you could only afford because it’s a lengthy commute from the office.  London and the surrounding areas are for the rich people, haven’t you heard?

Unemployment’s even greener!  No travel required at all there, kids!

My MP will be hearing from me, the tory git.  I think I’ll go and see him in person.  That should be interesting, especially since I’m angry enough not to be polite about it when he tries to feed me a line.  I will tell him that I found a more reliable, more fairly-priced (charge per kilometer travelled) railway system in India, and I won’t be joking.


4 Responses to “A Sense of Humour Failure”

  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life January 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Please let us know how that conversation turns out!

    I don’t use public transportation because there really is none available where I live–it sounds like I’m missing out on a giant headache.

  2. 2 trash January 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Initially I thought you made a typo but no Bliar is quite correct. And as for those two smug gits…

  3. 3 Bella Rum January 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    You do know how to put a fine point on it. I was wondering about access to bathroom facilities just when you mentioned there were NONE for over two hours. I have tell you that if I’d been on that train, there would have been a huge bladder leak. I could never hold it that long.

    You should write your local newspaper. Maybe they would publish this in the opinion section. This really should be published but they probably have a word limit. You’d have to shorten it. That’s the way it is here anyway, and still they edit your piece sometimes or don’t publish it at all. You have no control.

    This was a great piece and gives those in other countries a peek into your world. Thanks.

  1. 1 Democratic FaceTime Opportunity: Workers Need Not Apply « lifesmudged.com Trackback on February 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm

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