Friday, 20 November 2009

My blog has been discovered

Something called -- claiming to be "the UK's leading dedicated political news website", which is a new one on me; aren't there more than enough political news websites already? -- has, I have just discovered, done a review of my blog.

The anonymous reviewer says "There are a great many problems with this blog", (huh? such as what?), "but the writing is entertaining". Well thank you for that. Apparently "Some of the writing borders on offensive" (huh?) and "the site is ugly to look at" (huh? It is just a standard blogspot layout.)

Despite these terrible errors of which I was hitherto unaware, "Peezedtee is saved from oblivion by fiery prose and trenchant opinion. This makes the blog an enjoyable enough diversion, rather than an abject failure." Thank you. Thank you so much.

Xenophobia not just wrong but also impractical

To the hospital out-patients today for a small thing. I am seen by a Caribbean receptionist, an East European female nurse, an African male nurse, and an Indian doctor.

How on earth does the BNP suppose the National Health Service would function if its crazed ideas were applied?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rail companies have their heads in the sand

The London Evening Standard frequently carries letters to the editor griping about transport issues in the London area. Often these letters are silly and unreasonable -- as also were, in reality, many of the complaints once made about British Rail. But not always. Here is one from earlier this week:

The complaint in this case seems entirely reasonable, and yet South West Trains is generally regarded in the industry as one of the better operators. There appears to be a huge gap between the reality as perceived by most passengers and the fantasy world inhabited by the TOCs, who in the trade press always seem to be congratulating themselves on how well they think they are doing.

Until lately, among the specialist press, only Barry Doe in RAIL and Alan Williams in Modern Railways have expressed, from the passenger's point of view, a suitable degree of irritation with the train companies' many failings. It is good to see that in recent weeks the editor of RAIL, Nigel Harris, has started pointing out that we cannot go on like this. He doesn't agree with the above letter-writer's view about renationalisation, but he is calling loudly for root-and-branch reform of, in particular, the absurd and inequitable fares structure.

Myself, I think Harris is wrong to perpetuate the myth that nationalisation is obviously a bad idea. Not all state-owned organisations are inefficient. BR got a lot of things right, within the constraints under which it had to operate. Paradoxically, there was less direct government control then than there is now: BR in many ways had an arms-length relationship with government, rather like the BBC. But it is probably true that in terms of practical politics, renationalisation is a non-starter. If it was going to happen, it needed to happen when Labour came to power in 1997 on precisely that promise, on which they immediately reneged.

But there is a lot that could be done to improve things. One excellent suggestion, from Roger Ford of Modern Railways, is to reconstitute a single InterCity, albeit as a private-sector franchise. It was a great brand and mostly quite a good product. But that won't help Sarah of Shepperton, of course.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

London Underground's new Teacup Line

Transport for London has a new leaflet out explaining the forthcoming changes to the Circle Line (from 13 December). They are still going to call it the Circle Line, though it will be in the shape of a teacup, not a circle.

I hadn't previously quite understood that the Hammersmith and City line will still exist as a separate entity. When TfL says there will now be a train every 5 minutes between Paddington and Hammersmith, I take it to mean a Teacup train every 10 minutes and a H & C train every 10 minutes. This is certainly a remarkable increase in overall frequency on that section, which used to be notoriously unreliable and sporadic, at least it was in the early 1980s when I was living in Shepherds Bush.

Chaos can, I think, be expected on 13 December at Edgware Road. The leaflet makes a lot of the fact that, although some passengers will have to change trains there who up to now have had a through service, it will be an easy cross-platform interchange. In fact, this is not always the case. If you are going from, say, Great Portland Street to High Street Kensington (a direct journey by Circle train at present), your Teacup or H & C train will arrive at platform 4. The next High Street train might be across the platform at platform 3 (for Wimbledon) but it might equally be over the footbridge at platform 2 (an anti-clockwise Teacup train).

This is a good example of the iron rule that every transport improvement silver lining has a cloud for certain users.