What do we want? BR sandwiches! When do we want them? Er...
I'm trying a new train route tomorrow, as Exeter to the SE coast is not an easy journey by train (or indeed coach). It involves going up to London and out again, thus paying the exhorbitant prices of going anywhere remotely close to the capital. Hmmm, says this daughter of a railwayman, damned if that is the only way. I grew up in a house where the thickest and most referenced book was the BR rail timetables. It's taken a lot of staring at PDF timetables and, tonight, a quick phone call to check something. But I have a route. Going up tomorrow is only two changes. Coming back on Sunday is three, and takes an extra hour.
What really gets me, though, is that the national rail timetable doesn't list these as connections. I type in my start and end: it tells me the route isn't possible. Looking at individual rail company timetables, I realise one given to me a few days ago by the web thingy - going from Southampton to Exeter - is wrong. They gave me a train leaving at 20 past the hour with four changes - that's four changes on top of the three I already have. But the SW Train timetable shows a direct train leaving ten minutes earlier. I phoned the rail enquiry line and they swear blind the direct train is running. It's not the fault of the Accessible UK rail timetable; he's just pulling code from the National Rail site. The point is that when these results come up incorrectly, people say "oh, there's no connections so let's drive instead". The only reason I continued is because I knew there had to be a route. It's just bad organisation by the operators because they want people to get the expensive routes. And as long as the connections are bad, private transport will continue to be the default for the majority of citizens.
I've decided to ask every electoral campaigner I meet whether their party is going to re-nationalise the railways and return to a standardised timetable with clear routes and connections instead of the current chaos. It's not even as if the private rail operators take less in subsidy from the government than BR did: it takes more. Don't even get me started on the insanity of parcelling out track maintenance to profit-making lowest bid subcontractors and the safety implications of inadequately trained trackside workers doing essential tasks such as, for example, remembering to bolt the track to the bed. In 1996, Labour were promising a "publically owned, publically accountable" railway. They were also opposed to the privatisation of London Underground (I can hear Annie and the others at Going Underground laughing right now).
Of course, if I end up sat on my rucksack in Fratton saying "what do you mean, the train isn't running?" then I may change my mind but right now I want my British Rail back. Even the notorious sandwiches.