I have often dreamed, on one of those bad train days, of presenting a ticket inspector with only half a ticket, on the grounds that they’re only running half a train service. I never have, partly because I’m a coward, but mostly because all of the times there’s been real chaos, with passengers travelling sardine-class, they’ve never been able to get the inspectors through – or even on – the trains to collect the tickets. So more power to the pointy elbows of the Bath to Bristol train passengers who have not just organised a fares strike but printed out their own protest tickets to boot. I hope that GWR have the sense simply not to try and collect tickets on the really crowded trains until they’ve got stuff sorted out and won’t be dragging mild-mannered commuters through the courts in pursuit of their £1000 fines. After all, as Jade has discovered, there is such a thing as bad publicity.
All this coverage reminded me of another article a few days back, where the rail minister, Tom Harris*, apparently told passengers we’d have to accept over crowding on peak time services as a fact of life. I’m not sure if it was the way his remarks were edited, or what he actually said, but if you read the article he appears to conflate ‘over crowding’ with ‘not getting a seat’. Of course we don’t expect to get a seat on peak trains – but having people standing is not what we generally mean when we complain of over crowding. Over crowding isn’t having to stand on the train – it’s when you can’t get on the train in order to stand. Or when a single failed service topples every other following train because the backlog of passsengers can’t clear fast enough from the platform. Or when everyone has to breathe in unison, or when you can pick your feet off the floor and not fall over because the press of other passengers is holding you up. That’s over crowding. And if the rail minister doesn’t know that, then he must never have had to commute by train. In which case, I think we need a new rail minister, don’t you?
*No, I’d never heard of him either