Last Friday, I was on a train to an appointment when it came to a sudden halt in the middle of a field. The train driver's rather apologetic voice materialised through the in-carriage speakers. 'Sorry we've come to a stop. We're on a neutral part of the track and I have no power to move this train forwards. We will have to wait until the next train comes along to give us a push.' It wasn't until 20 minutes later the next train appeared and the driver announced, 'If you're not sitting down then hold onto something. There may be a slight bang.' Another five minutes later the train behind us pushed our train onto a live section of the track. I was 15 minutes late for my appointment which then led to a 30 minute delay to being seen.
On a daily basis Londoners can witness examples of Tube-rage. Penned into narrow carriages, people exhibit examples of behaviour like those witnessed in severe traffic jams on a hot day. People will curse, push and be aggressive while feeling threatened where no real threats are present. Examples:
1) Today, the tube I was on was very full. When it pulled into a station a man in the middle of the carriage pushed through other passengers. One girl near the exit felt angered by this and kicked him. He shot her an evil glare and she returned with a shout, 'WHAT?!'
2) A few days ago, I was preparing to get off the carriage when it pulled into a station. I was the closest to the door; in fact I was pressed against the door. As the door opened and I started to step off the train a woman from behind me barged through my left shoulder and spat, 'How rude!' towards me as she marched past.
I'm assuming these people would not usually be so unreasonable.
Seeing as it's 2009 surely Britain should have trains reliable enough to not get stuck in the neutral section of a track. Seeing as it's 2009 surely - and especially with all the investment for the 2012 Olympics - London's tube network should have trains spacious enough to avoid having people packed into greater density than bees in a hive.
Over the last few years (or perhaps decade) there have been so much, supposed, government investment on the transport network across the country. Some of which has been successful and a few things have improved, notably London buses. However, given the number of delays, engineering works, new constructions and monetary investment we really should be seeing a greater improvement.
I suspect a culture of sub-contracting work and government policy writers, who are not experts in the field they set policies for, have squandered much of the money invested. The papers and public keep crying out for more investment. Do they not see figures in the billions and think, 'That should be enough money'?
Setting policies is a difficult balance. If you hire technical people into the field of expertise then they will request lots of money into expansion which is unhelpful for budgeting. If you hire bureaucratic people who understand budgeting and government policies then they write great plans but have little idea how to spend the money and where inefficiencies are. Perhaps the government and civil service needs to hire bureaucratic workers who are well trained in the field they are to work in. It seems to me that there is currently a trend amongst government officials who look to develop good general managers rather than specialised managers. They then move these 'good' managers around into completely unrelated fields to fix this or the other. I think there is a fallacious assumption that a good worker is one that's purely good at working and doesn't need to be good at the field they work in. The motive is good but I think the execution is poor. It lacks balance.
Britain needs a railway overhaul. London needs an overhaul of the tube network. Both have been overdue. That's despite constant promises and publicity about the supposed 'overhaul' or 'revolution' or 'advancement' of both. The consequences of these false overhauls is wide ranging.