the Disillusioned kid: Polar Express
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Polar Express

Don't you just love this country sometimes?
Rail companies will be closing their networks until Thursday morning from about 8pm tonight after rejecting demands for at least a basic service on Boxing Day.

Britain is the only major European country that will be without a rail service on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, despite huge growth in demand. The quarter of British households without access to a car will struggle to get to Boxing Day sports fixtures. The sales will be under way – but only those with cars are likely to benefit: trains do not resume until after 6am on the 27th.
I'm not particularly interested in sports fixtures, don't give a flying sleigh about the sales and plan to spend Christmas and Boxing day at home with the family, nevertheless as one of those without a car (I don't own one and can't drive anyway) I can empathise with those who will find themselves unable to get where they want to be because of this arrangement.

The excuse offered by Association of Train Operating Companies for this, frankly pathetic, state of affairs is that they're just not getting enough pocket money from the government. The association insisted that members would run services only if they received extra subsidy. A spokesman whined, “Train companies are not in the business of running services they know will lose money. Undoubtedly there would be some demand, but not enough to justify a commercial service.” A senior rail industry source told the Times: “We will run trains if the Government funds them. They already subsidise the railway for 363 days a year so why not the remaining two?”

A cross-party group of 28 MPs has signed an Early Day Motion expressing their "deep disappointment" with the rail companies and calling for them to get themselves on track to provide a proper service next year. What with the record of EDM's this isn't exactly encouraging, but it's a start and you might want to consider writing to your MP encouraging them to add their names. The lazy sods will probably be on holiday until mid-January, though.

This all points, of course, to the sheer lunacy of a privatised public transport system. It's overpriced, not very good and still requires a gargantuan amount of taxpayers money. Predictably, the Times article from which most of this post is derived doesn't draw the obvious conclusion, but polls show majority support for renationalisation of the railways and frankly even a government as incompetent as the current one ought to be able to do a better job than the money-grabbing fat cats currently holding the keys.

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