I don’t think Polly understands trains

Trains do signify the fitness of a government. If an incoming Labour government concentrates hard on making trains run on time at fair fares, that would be a potent signal of all-round efficiency worth investing in heavily. But what perplexes me is the passivity of train-travelling commuters, among the most well-heeled, empowered of citizens. Yet apart from a minor kicking down of a gate in St Albans during the worst of the timetabling disaster, they fail to rebel. Along Southern’s lines, passing through nothing but top Tory MPs’ constituencies, passengers tolerate years of strikes and disruption, with more to come. Why aren’t they taking direct action, voting out their MPs and super-gluing ticket barriers? Ah, I forgot. The private companies get paid regardless of ticket income: only the state loses if people refuse to pay, another brilliant bit of contracting in these failed franchises.

Err, no. The Southtern line the operator gets paid because it’s not a franchise, it’s a contract to operate. On franchises no ticket revenue means no revenue.

28 thoughts on “I don’t think Polly understands trains”

  1. As someone who uses buses and trains very, very rarely, less than ten times a year, my concept of a fair fare is one that covers the full cost of the service without the need for a taxpayer subsidy.

  2. Is there anything La Twaddle does understand (other than how to play to the prejudices of her dwindling readership)?

    About 20 years ago, several of my Parisian colleagues commuted into Montparnasse from Le Mans*, when the then new TGV line opened. For their 200km journey, they paid about half what a 50km season ticket cost in the UK (and in France travel costs to work are tax deductible, so paid from gross rather than net income). When the fares increased, all these besuited gentleman simply sat down on the line and refused to allow the train to move. The decision was soon reversed.

    * Le Mans rapidly became a dormitory suburb, a fate that awaits Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield (if HS2 ever gets that far)

  3. Voting out their MPs? For being remainers, no doubt, as the EU tewlls usa how to run our trains and that we couldn’t nationalise them if we wanted to. Surely that section, now Southern, was always rubbish. Through at least three ownership regimes. Those who commute on it learn to suppress their frustration, as we must if we choose to read Polly’s outpourings.

  4. What does the mad bint want, the man on the Clapham Omnibus to start wrenching out the seating and setting fire to the top deck, like the disaffected urban yoof the morons at the ‘Guardian’ so idolise?

  5. Southern Trains would have been vastly more reliable had the Union not run a guerilla campaign of strikes for over a year. Polly doesn’t seem fit to mention that though.

    Oh, and is she also inciting criminal damage be done here? How does she feel about people lobbing bricks through the Guardian office windows?

  6. Given most of the disruption was caused by issues with the unions, I think Polly is arguing that the commuters should have been besieging the house of commons to strip train workers of their right to strike.

    Apparently people drift right as they age, I guess it has happened to Polly later than for most.

  7. Violence is back in fashion for the champagne socialists.

    Much in the same way that it’s the Jew’s fault for forcing socialists to be nasty to them, so violence against nasty big biz is compulsory. But if you’re going to superglue someone make sure no BAMEs are involved otherwise you’ll be a fascist, racist, white supremacist. And watch out for the ladies.

    In Polly’s mind, her memory of her last train journey being from 50 years ago, all the staff are fat white blokes, hence her venom.

  8. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Bristow understood about direct action on the railways

    Bristow and British Hi Speed Rail

    I can’t find my Bristow book at the moment, but there was an excellent series where there was a fares increase and the passengers riot. The stationmaster is on the phone to Head Office..

    “The mood was a little ugly earlier, but I sent my assistant, Perkins, out to placate the passengers and things have calmed down… Well they’ve got hold of Perkins…”

  9. So Polly thinks that the mark of a good government is that it makes the trains run on time.
    Must have spent too long in Italy.

  10. Are the trains full? Yes. So what’s the problem?

    They’re good enough that people will fill the seats and standing room so why should we spend money or change them to make them better or cheaper?

    Clearly people like them or they wouldn’t ride them.

  11. Pol, like the rest of the CM middle-class is fond of sqwork-talk about riot and “direct action” . Were such “action” applied to her and her little gang of Gladrag heroes she would be filling her knickers double-quick.

    Perhaps she is right. Perhaps people should take direct action when confronted with socialist evil and the consequences of socialist evil.

    If we can kick off over late trains then civil war seems a just and appropriate response to attempted treason and Brexit betrayal by the FFC etc.

  12. @bloke on m4

    Maybe not “like” – even the devoted users enjoy to have a good moan about them. But the alternatives may well be worse, or plain unaffordable, hence the train may be in the little loved position of “least crap option”.

    What alternatives are there? Drive to work in London, terrible traffic, possibly the congestion charge, parking a nightmare? Get a local job instead of commuting, but that restricts career paths and pay? Move to London to avoid the commute altogether, get a poky little flat you spend a huge slice of your salary renting? Go by coach rather than train – cheaper but impractically slower?

  13. MBE,

    Well yeah. Most of our choices are least worst. I don’t grab tea at the Ritz in London, I go to Costa. It’s cheaper.

    And if people want amazing trains, they have to pay for them. Or get those unionised staff to stop getting pisstake wages. I don’t see why bus travellers at the other end of the country should subsidise them, when there’s people who will put up with it.

  14. We don’t stuff glue into the ticket machines because we’d end up with a criminal record and lose our jobs. That’s not hard to understand, surely?

    Want more direct action? Then reduce the penalties for engaging in direct action.

  15. It’s all about demand
    I cannot see the problem if people want to live in high priced houses in SE England and commute to work in the crime capital of the UK and therefore have to pay for transportation
    Do they want yet more subsidy?
    As if London doesn’t consume enough already
    They ought to try commuting in my neck of the woods, if they can find any public transport

  16. Andrew: Civil disobedience has no value if there is no down side. The whole point of civil disobedience is you are demonstrating your willingness to trade your liberty to make a point.

  17. ‘Trains do signify the fitness of a government.’

    Getting the trains to run on time: the Mussolini defence.

  18. Polly bravely inciting others to criminal acts (and the consequences thereof) while sat on the sidelines looking on. Nice, eh?

    But they’ll be shocked, stunned when the bricks start coming through their windows. “How did this all start?” Etc.

  19. “Getting the trains to run on time: the Mussolini defence.”

    I don’t think anyone runs trains any better than anyone else. The countries where they are good simply have more inputs. It’s always a monopoly, so the staff hold everyone to ransom for high pay and conditions.

    People talk up Swiss trains, but the carriages I travelled on were crap. The tgv is excellent but the French poured billions into it. Despite the state building the rails and putting their finger on the scale, it’s not like Eurostar is any cheaper than flying.

    I don’t even think the current UK system makes much difference.

  20. @ Gamecock
    Dizzy didn’t think that trains were a responsibility of the British Government – he was more concerned with creating Peace in Europe (which is a sine qua non for World Peace), reducing poverty in the UK (all his novels advocate reducing inequality), and winning India. Trains were commerce, not the business of government.
    You may think that the explosion of railways under Disraeli demonstrate the quality of his government …

  21. “Trains do signify the fitness of a government.”

    Well in that case, that ‘post-war consensus’ you remember so fondly Polly: SHIT.

  22. “But what perplexes me is the passivity of train-travelling commuters, among the most well-heeled, empowered of citizens”

    Precisely because they’re well-heeled citizens who are currently empowered to have their commute subsidised by the not-quite-so-well-heeled.

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