The joys of bureaucracy

Isn\’t this just marvellous?

Every Tuesday, at 9.45am precisely, a 50-seat executive coach draws up at a bus stop outside Ealing Broadway station in West London. No one ever gets on and, a moment later, it departs – empty – on a 70-minute trip to Wandsworth Road in South London.

Once there, it waits for two hours and 15 minutes before returning, again carrying no passengers. Welcome to Britain\’s most luxurious bus service, paid for by the taxpayer, immaculately clean, punctual to the second and which the Government is trying desperately to keep secret.

This service, funded by the Department for Transport, is not advertised on any timetables or departures screens, and staff at the stations it serves are not even aware it exists.

The “ghost bus” runs simply to allow the Government to escape the embarrassment of admitting that it has closed several sections of railway in West London to passenger trains.

By running a weekly bus, ministers can claim that a service still operates and avoid the legal requirement to hold a public consultation. Rail passenger groups fear that the Ealing “ghost bus” sets a dangerous precedent for more closures by stealth

What causes this sort of idiocy? Plus, of course, the Parliamentary Trains?

The “ghost bus” has similarities to “parliamentary trains” – rail services that run rarely, usually very early in the morning or late at night, to maintain the legal fiction that a station or line remains open and avoid the politically sensitive closure process

The term “parliamentary train” stems from the Railway Regulation Act of 1844, which set minimum standards and a maximum fare of a penny a mile in third class. Private companies were able to protect their profits while fulfilling the letter of the law by running only one compliant service a day at an awkward time

Current parliamentary trains include: Stockport to Stalybridge 11.28 (Saturdays only); Ellesmere Port to Warrington 00.00 (daily); Chester to Runcorn 08.25 (summer, Saturdays only); Lancaster to Windermere, via Morecambe 05.38 (Mondays to Saturdays); Sheffield to Cleethorpes (six trains, Saturdays only)

Well, it\’s all to do with running things under "democratic accountability". If you say that politicians should be in charge of something then politicians are going to be in charge of something. This means that they are going to be accountable to small but vociferous groups out there in civil society.

And thus they\’re going to lie and cheat in order not to wake up such groups. If politicians were not in charge, if there were no "democratic accountability" about where and when trains ran then there wouldn\’t be this sort of nonsense.

4 comments on “The joys of bureaucracy

  1. With parliamentary trains the government has set minimum standards and private companies are the ones who are ‘lying and cheating’ in order to meet them.

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