Sunday, 5 January 2020

Disconnected Railways

There's a lot wrong with the railways in Britain. I hear about it everyday from passengers. The prices are too high. The service too unreliable. The solution, I'm told, is to re-nationalise the whole system. As with politics, there's a disconnect in the publics mind as to what the cause of their complaints are. And thus the solutions they find will not likely work out for them.

Most of the reliability problems sit at the door of Network Rail, who are responsible for the infrastructure. Network Rail is already a state owned enterprise. And the high prices? Tickets are already subsidised by the taxpayer. Passengers don't pay for what they get as it is. But prices can be raised or lowered as a matter of government policy through the subsidies they pay into the system. Re-nationalisation is not a necessity.

Every now and then I'll engage with a passenger and offer my thoughts, if they seem genuinely interested and civil. But I know a confused look when I see one. My comments go in one ear, echo for a moment, then seep out of the other ear. It is just like politics, in more ways than one.

So most of the time, I just nod and smile. I do a lot of that these days. Nodding and smiling. In fact it's become my number one response when dealing with people. Sometimes I find myself nodding and smiling at people just a fraction too early, before they've even begun to speak. Without fail, they will justify my nodding and smiling. So I will nod and smile with more vigour and enthusiasm.

But the working day will come to an end. It always does. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact to help get through it. I will be paid handsomely for selling tickets, providing information. And for nodding and smiling. Then I will go for a walk. My favourite walk takes me past Bournemouth Pier. Perhaps I'll sit for a while and gaze out to sea. And nod and smile. Just for a moment.

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