/ trains

The people's railway

I'm a bit late to this one, as seems my theme this year, but I couldn't let 'The Passengers That Took On The Train Line pass without comment.

There's still 10 days at the time of writing for you to go over and watch the showand then work out whether you agree with me or not. If it's sometime after 13 July then I'll just assume you agree with me anyway.

The premise of the programme itself, that passengers can do a better job of running a train company than a train company can, is a simple winner. It's logical: if you ride the train every day then you know what the problems are to fix and, by being a real person, you're a real person.

So despite knowing the problems already by virtue of being real people, the 'passengers' did some market research: standing outside train stations asking people what they wanted.

Because they were real people too, they had the same thoughts and desires as the other real people: an end to delays, a seat for everyone and cheaper tickets.

Those are the things that real people want, and who are we in this Brexit induced haze to argue that having more of something and less of money is in no way contradictory and entirely achievable.

No more delays means no more delays. And of course that's what everyone wants.

The programme went on to discover that in order to run a train franchise you need to have the money to run a train franchise.

The real people also made such revolutionary other discoveries as tracks being owned by the Government, trains being quite expensive and the Government not really liking the idea of a random group of passengers and a TV guy running a safety critical, highly regulated company which millions of people rely on every day for travel and thousands rely on for their livelihoods.

And while the real people got on with being astounded at that, the TV documentary maker went off to some foreign place in Europe (we don't like those, do we?) where trains ran on time. He found that they do things such as 'maintenance' and have trains designed to scan the tracks for problems which we absolutely don't also have. Who'd have thought.

In conclusion, the programme said, the system is skewed against the little guy and that is unfair.

Well, yes I suppose it is unfair that we were all deprived of the opportunity for the government to bend procurement rules to allow real people, who had no money or experience, to win a franchise they had no idea or competence to run in order to deliver a spate of improvements which would cost money, while charging less money.

Perhaps lacking in good business sense, but the real people have spoken, so give it 6 months and Brenda from Bristol will probably be running Great Western Railway.

I despair.