Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Does the taint spread?

Posted in Great Britain, Media, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 19 October 2012

Farce follows fiasco over the ICWC difficulty. Now it seems that, what with the franchise competition that saw First Group have their bid accepted, then rejected after Virgin’s complaint, and then the realisation that the DfT had gotten its sums wrong, we now know how it will pan out. Rather than Directly Operated Railways taking over, it will be Virgin that continues with running the operation for between the next 9 and 13 months, which will be followed by a short franchise, after which will be a longer one intended to go to the opening of High Speed 2. Of course, there are many people that aren’t happy about this – these are the people that want to see the railways completely re-nationalised. For people of a particular political hue, the spectacles of hindsight that they wear when talking about the halcyon days of British Rail are much the same colour as their political leanings. For example, the prospective Labour candidate for Mayor of London re-tweeted a tweet today from Polly Toynbee, who was complaining about the queues at the ticket office at London Victoria.

Southern rail a disgrace, ticket queues at Victoria miles long, machines bust,manager says nothing to be done.Nationalise??

That now seems to be the default response whenever anything goes even slightly wrong. Because of course there were never any ticket office queues or broken ticket machines in the days of the nationalised railway. What people also seem to forget is that when British Rail was privatised there was a policy of “managed decline”, with no expectation of passenger numbers booming the way they have, hence the reason we have had to have the massive infrastructure investment over the last twenty or so years. Were the railways to be re-nationalised, would the money be there both to complete the infrastructure work and run the services, especially in the Age of Austerity?

But, there is something else. People may have noticed that there has been massive scandal regarding the late Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE KCSG and allegations that he was a “kiddy fiddler”. The scandal has led to serious questions being asked at the BBC and the various hospitals that Savile had connections to through his charity work, over who knew what, when, and how, if his predilictions were fairly widely known, he was able to get away with it. Three weeks before the story became public, BBC Four broadcast a programme called “The Age of the Train” that celebrated the InterCity 125. Not only did this programme look at the design and construction of the train itself, but also at the famous marketing campaign with the slogan “This is the Age of the Train”. The advertising agency, Allen Brady and Marsh, which came up with the campaign also decided that the best front man for the campaign was…Jimmy Savile. As a consequence, Jimmy Savile is undeniably connected with British Rail. So, does the taint of the allegations against him spread? After all, even though he was the choice of the advertising agency, the choice was signed off by British Rail. Of course, even though everyone remembers the “Age of the Train” campaign, it was only one campaign. But, because it is the one that everyone remembers, should people be so nostalgic about the nationalised railway when it is so connected to someone like that? After all, the BBC are probably in no rush to revisit the format of Jim’ll Fix It.

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