I like Trains

So says the band and so do I. I’m not an enthusiast, although I do understand why people are. I’d like to stick up for the geeky image of trainlovers. Unlike some rotten newspapers suggest, having a passion for the horses of the iron road seems a harmless hobby. It’s a quiet, obtrusive interest, and there is a kind of beauty and tranquillity about steam trains.

When I say I like trains, I mainly refer to riding on them.

Which is why when train journeys are so often stressful and unsatisfactory, when things so regularly go wrong, that I am angry.

I constantly rue the 1960s Beeching demolition of lots of useful lines, leaving many rural places stranded.

Since privatisation, we’ve been asked to accept high fares, slow and unreliable services, rude staff – and whatever anti social behaviour selfish fellow passengers feel like, especially in terms of noise and drinking.

It seems that train staff are only concerned that customers have paid; our security, comfort and offering service are not of concern. Whilst happy to confront customers regarding  tickets, staff will not risk conflict over antisocial behaviour.

I’ve seen a mainline train stopped by police for a single person with a “ticket irregularity” but not when a hoard of violent drunks are aboard.

Instead of a welcoming message as one boards, many companies’ first tannoy declares at length that if as advance ticket holders, you are found on board the wrong service, you will have to pay a penalty fare. How that word – penalty – jangles.  They offer cheap fares but think of reasons to make it hard to not pay more.

Why do we have so many rules and conditions to trap people into punishment?

The phrase ‘rail service‘ has become ironic now, with companies pointing to targets to pretend they are doing well. We all know that statistics are misleading and that what really counts is often not quantified and not quantifiable.

If a rail company constantly displays signs about the abuse of employees not being tolerated, it says that they do something to incite abuse. They are quick to take passengers to court over assault, but not to stop it happening between passengers. One line particularly hides when drunken football fans get on – when their presence is most needed – and has led to unrelated passengers being attacked. There is nowhere near enough transport police available for the trains services. Several counties have only 5 staff, in total. Train crews consist of the driver, perhaps trolley/bar staff, and what used to be called a conductor. They are badly trained to deal with problems and I daresay it’s their unions who tell them to keep themselves safe – no matter what happens to those on board.

I would like to see a rethink re alcohol on trains and the end of these rules where trains without drinking allowed on them have to be pre-advertised. Carrier bags of cans to be consumed by already drunk people – I have seen them start at 630 am – should not be allowed on the train.

Trains should return to being the pleasant way of travel they ought to be with greater penalities for train companies who do not deliver what is deserved.

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