Crisis – what crisis?

The September 1982 copy of ‘Modern Railways’ has the cover sub-title of “British Rail in crisis.”  This seems to be mainly due to a prolonged strike by the ASLEF drivers.  It seems to have been due to a proposal to take guards off freight trains.  Some things are truly timeless…..

An article, “ASLEF Dispute Diary” says:

In a statement accompanying its strike call ASLEF repeated that the purpose of the strike was to retain the guaranteed 8 hour day and to resist the worsening of conditions of its members.  Referring to calling-off the separate strike by the National Union of Railwaymen the previous day – in terms of a concurrent World Cup football metaphor – a member of the ASLEF Executive said: ‘Now Sir Peter Parker is playing against Brazil instead of Kuwait.’

Or should it be Iceland?  In Germany, there is no union action, but a….

War on draughts  Some travellers in DB’s air-conditioned coaches still complain of draughts and are surprised that there is no simple remedy like shutting a window or ventilator.  The DB research laboratories in Minden are therefore undertaking a detailed study of air movement in compartment and open vehicles, in motion and at rest…..

I had to read it to see why DB were banning board games.  A column by Alan Williams is rather provocative….

Britain’s railways are in a mess, that much few people would deny.  And depending where you sit it is fashionable to blame either the Luddite lefty unions or the wicked, capitalist pro-free-enterprise (ie: pro-road) Government.  Certainly neither side is exactly blameless; Ray Buckton’s antics over flexible rostering have been more than matched by the Transport Secretary’s vacillations, known in Whitehall as flexible posturing.  But what sort of management gets itself into eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in the first place?  Bad management, that’s what….

It was interesting, but rather depressing, to see BR management in action – or perhaps inaction – during what the media love to call the ‘rail crisis’ – strikes now being rather passe, simplistic confrontations over such minor things as pay.  On such bits of British Rail I confronted during the crisis, the action was decidedly patchy.  At some stations, staff were clearly busy scrubbing, cleaning and planting flowers to such effect that one wondered vaguely if some phantom Royal Train was about to appear.  But at far too many the platforms were deserted and the staff, though presumably still being paid, appeared to have retired permanently to the local hostelry, leaving the station entirely unmanned…..

These days it seems a lost art to write a piece that doesn’t take sides, and has a go at absolutely everyone.  Our journalists should remember that rarely is one side alone to blame.  Elsewhere in this edition, there’s an article that looks rather optimistic in hindsight:

The electrification of Paddington’s suburban services

The British Railways Board’s Corporate Plan of 1980 sanguinely envisaged completion of a Paddington suburban electrification scheme to Didcot and Oxford by 1987, at a cost of £32 million.  But that date had gone by the board long before the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers & Firemen put all electrification in jeopardy…

As in so many other areas of BR, therefore, the case for the Paddington suburban electrification is one of sheer need to renew worn-out assets in the most far-sighted way if the service is to survive much beyond the life of a Government which, uniquely in Europe, treats public transport as expendable…

Remember that the DTp has recently committed over four times the likely cost of Stage I [electrification] to the M40 [motorway] extension, chiefly to save road transport a quarter-of-an-hour on the West Midlands-Southampton haul.

34 years on, some work is being carried out, but we’re still waiting for the first electrified train.  And we still have strikes.  But there is positive change in other areas.  The privatized railways are a victim of their own success, carrying more passengers than ever before, often with relatively new rolling stock.  Perhaps it’s a case of the yokel’s instruction to the lost tourist: “If you want to get to there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Still, other snippets put this firmly into the 1980’s….

“Baghdad Metro plans outlined”.  Yes it got built and is operating again.

“London Transport is to accept Visa and Access credit cards in payment for Underground season tickets and longer-period bus passes.  To avoid delays at ticket office counters the facility will apply only to postal and telephone purchases.”  Well, now there are no ticket offices.

“Vauxhall Motors has announced that is has not decided to renew its contracts to distribute cars by rail, and will rely exclusively on road transport instead.  An official statement denied that this reflected on BR’s record of reliability; the decision had more to do with the poor or non-existent rail access to the company’s plants.”

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Out and about, Prototype, Weird and wonderful and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crisis – what crisis?

  1. smoppett says:

    That was very interesting.

    What do you think the reliability of the Paddington electrification if it had been built under the Treasury at a similar time to the East Coast Electrification?

    It was interesting that the only reason given for the M40 extension was to save some travel time. Nothing about relieving traffic levels on the M1. Sound familiar?


  2. As you say, a ‘pay dispute’ won’t make headlines anymore. Even the weather now is getting like the U.S. where it’s a total performance and drama to see if it’s raining tomorrow.


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