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John Major Balls-up's Train Set

The original piece is now in Pinko Polemics, part of the BENYBOOKS series. This page is now home to a supplement on the later developments in this current hot issue.

Balls-up Supplement

    My original John Major Balls-ups’ Train Set feature, on the subject of rail privatisation, used humour freely. I feel unable to do that here, in this supplement intended to bring my comments up to date. The present situation is entirely beyond a joke.

    The original piece still exists. It is now part of Pinko Polemics, one of the Benybooks available free from KOBO, and elsewhere at a bargain basement price.

    Now, presumably to assist the ‘scorched earth’ policies the present (May 2024) Government is pursuing to make harder the job of its soon-to-be-successors, politicians and others who should know better are pretending that the present industrial action is the cause of the dire state of our crumbling railways. Obviously, this dispute isn’t doing them any good, but I am entirely sure that the most telling damage was done by the Railways Act, 1993, as part of the doctrinaire privatisation programme.

    You will be able to point to other components of this lunatic policy, like the creation of a multiplicity of billing companies for energy, in a shameless pretence at introducing ‘competition’ into the industries. In reality all it did was increase the numbers of people employed in sales and administration in energy distribution. As we all know, these billing companies didn’t hesitate to take full financial advantage of the World’s energy crisis. Many of them perished in the process.

    The privatisations of water and sewage were even worse than energy in many ways. Water and sewage are something we all need, and the damage is to the environment as well as to individuals is widely known and indisputable.

    But here, I am only trying to bring more up to date my original comments on the harm done to the railway service by the turning of the clock back to pre-1923 days. I should do so in a chronological way from about the second decade of this Millennium where John Major Balls-ups’ Train Set left off.

    Although it was clear that the railway system was in decline after 1993, we ambled along, paying rising fares for more and more overcrowded trains, much as I have described in John Major Balls-ups’ Train Set. An increasing number of people were paying ever heavier fares for the privilege.

    Then, three and a half years after Brexit, a Party squabble which was allowed to spill out onto the streets (also featured in Pinko Polemics), the World was hit by what I will always think of as the ‘Covid-19 Panic-demic’. Personally (and I know my view is a minority one) I believe our overreaction has caused far greater damage to our society than the disease itself.

     Obviously, the disease itself cannot be laid at the door of politicians. The first ‘lockdown’ was an understandable emergency response to  what was happening to a World that did not know what was happening to it. Unfortunately, many politicians of all stripes enjoyed standing behind podiums and being treated seriously so much that they repeated ‘lockdown’ and enforced restrictions in stop-start patterns again and again over a prolonged period. This resulted in damage to the fabric of almost every aspect of society, This included much more than the railway system – ironically, the broken NHS we now have is probably the classic case.

    Bringing the matter back to our failing railway system, a disease that no-one should take the blame for, only further damaged the working of this vital  system. It didn’t help that railways had been previously deliberately treated as no more than a ‘cash cow’ by those whom we elected to make society better.

    Thus the rail industrial dispute (whose genesis is to be found in the ‘panic-demic’) was allowed to fester on, seemingly permanently. Our government has no real interest in taking steps to end it, and the hands of the sham-independent railway companies are tied by them. Nor are the rail employees and trade unions innocent parties. The case for restoring pay levels to their levels of four years ago seems straightforward at first glance, but this ignores the fact that, to the travelling public, railways simply don’t have the value they did four years ago.

    The likely successors to the present shoddy government have indicated that they propose to renationalise the railway system. This expensive process should not be seen as a magic wand. Over thirty years of damage, much of it quite deliberate, to our railways are not going to be so easily repaired.  

Supplement to John Major
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