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It’s an interesting contention

Rishi Sunak will provoke a public uproar should he prioritise pre-election tax cuts over better pay for nurses, ambulance workers and teachers, Britain’s most senior union figure has warned.

Maybe, but only maybe.

Here little voter of mine. Would you like £500 a year back, back off your tax bill? Or would you like that cash to go to the doctors, train drivers and teachers all of whom make more than you do? For, yes, those middle and upper bands of the public sector do make markedly more than you, Mr Median and or modal voter on your £32k a year. Train drivers twice and doctors three to four times for example.

Revealed preferences are different from expressed often enough. And if that deal were offered in the privacy of the actual wallet then those public sector workers are shit out of luck. Sadly, politics works rather more on expressed than revealed preferences. In the voting booth more revealed, but even then not entirely so.

Which is what makes it an interesting contention and a maybe, isn’t it? Maybe the voters will elect with their wallets, maybe they’ll go with the grandstanding.

Fun, eh?

14 thoughts on “It’s an interesting contention”

  1. Why do we pay train drivers so much? We can make self driving cars that work well enough to drive on known busy roads. Creating a system to drive trains should be about 1% of that complexity so why do we need overpaid train drivers? The unions will shout “safety” but in the event of an incident the trains CCTV cameras and announcement system could be activated by an emergency control center?

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    My guess is that it’s still too expensive to retrofit all the safety equipment needed. The railways are notoriously conservative when it comes to safety and nobody wants to risk a system that just works so it will be over engineered to the nth degree.

    It’s much easier and cheaper when building from new eg DLR. That said, I don’t expect new lines to be driverless because politics.

  3. The value of the privacy of the voting booth is that you can do one thing and claim the other. Do you think their wouldn’t be vast numbers who took the notional £500 tax cut from Rishi Sunak and then subsequently said “Don’t look at me, I voted Labour”.


  4. To AndyF and BiND,

    I honestly can’t see the point of train drivers, because firstly, they don’t have to steer. Secondly, they mostly follow signals and signs about when they stop or go, rather than what they see out of the front window. Incidentally, at very low speeds they might just be able to stop in time, but a high speed train takes 700 or more metres to stop, and the driver quite often can’t see that far, especially in bad weather or at night (when the sight distance might be as little as 30 metres) or round bends. In my view, we would be better off with driverless trains and more guards, which would improve passenger safety by a lot more.
    I recommend reading a lot of the reports from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (they are online) to see just how helpless (and useless) drivers are in real emergencies.
    I’m not heartless, and it must be ghastly to be the driver when you can’t stop the train in time, and even worse when some lunatic jumps out in front of a train you are driving.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    Excavator Man,

    I agree it can be done and even should be done, I was setting out the reasons why I think it hasn’t been and won’t be.

    It was done a very long time ago. About 30 years ago my then 6-year-old son’s favourite day out as a trip on the DLR where he could pretend to be the train driver.

    HS2 could be driverless at not much extra cost but it won’t, because Politics. Nobody wants to carry the can if there’s a catastrophic failure and the unions are for some reason still seen powerful. (They lost that power when we stopped being reliant on coal fired power stations, but nobody in politics seems to have noticed)

  6. Hong Kong’s MTR system has been driverless since its inception and can deal with 90 second intervals at busy times. Or rather, the driving has been fully automatic since there is a “driver” (who is really the guard) whose main task is to ensure the doors are closed and to press the “go” button. The company gets a lot of stick when incidents happen but they are invariably infrastructure problems that a driver has no control over.

  7. With the prime minister already under pressure from Tory MPs to sanction tax cuts in the spring budget

    What, about 20 of them? I don’t think we need to worry about tax cuts. The first priority of the coup was reversing tax cuts, and it’s not as if the public finances have gotten better since late ’22.

  8. @ BiND

    Sitting in the “drivers” seat on the DLR is still fun as a man child.

    Perhaps all those who bleat sympathy with the impoverished train drivers should be made to sit in that seat for an afternoon and see if they still think train drivers deserve 80k a year for a few afternoons staring out the window a week

  9. I seem to recall that the Victoria line was meant to be driverless, but the unions would never allow it.

    Imagine the compounded savings that London Tube would have made over the past 50+ years on the Victoria line alone.

    You start getting numbers that would have allowed far lower ticket prices or you to buy a whole new tube line pretty quickly.

    That’s the cost of “Public Service” (hah!) unions.

  10. AndyF,

    “Why do we pay train drivers so much?”

    Because as a monopoly (try getting into London at 9am any other way) with some high barriers to entry they could hold the commuters to ransom. They could take all the money. And as demand for rail increased and fares increased, They and the rest of the staff could take all of it.

    Why do bus drivers earn less than train or tram drivers? Because it’s a reasonably open market. £1-3K of training costs, takes about 7-8 weeks in total. You’re not going to earn £60K because the market is going to get more drivers before that point and rectify it.

    People generally look down on coaches, but the whole thing is full of open markets, which is why it’s so much cheaper. Markets for drivers, suppliers, coach companies. £12 on National Express compared to £30 on the trains.

  11. I’m not heartless, and it must be ghastly to be the driver when you can’t stop the train in time, and even worse when some lunatic jumps out in front of a train you are driving.

    Interestingly, there are very few suicides on the DLR, even on the sections where the tracks are easily accessible. It’s as though they want to inflict pain on someone else when they go.

    The DLR trains have drivers controls hidden inside locked boxes at each end, and staff have to undergo periodic use of them, in case they’re called on in an emergency.

  12. “nurses, ambulance workers and teachers”

    Dunno about the ambulance workers but the contribution of most nurses and teachers over the Covid panic period suggests to me that we ought to decimate them. Unless you chaps think that executing one in ten is too soft.

  13. Well. yes, there will be a public uproar organised by the unions and publicised by the BBC (public sector) and the left-wing journalists (was it 60% or 70% of journalists who described themselves as “left of centre”).
    A small minority can make a lot of noise if the MSM holds a microphone next to it.
    A public uproar does *not* mean a lot of support for a cause, just a lot of noise.

  14. Vancouver has had driverless trains for over 30 years, they don’t have guards though there are some safety people scattered around the system. They have a good safety record so that aspect is well proven. The trains can be manually driven in an emergency and when moving in maintenance areas outside the control system, I did get to try the training simulator they had and crashed the train, have to get the speed right for the bends or it’s not pretty.

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