13 June 2007

Beeching's legacy

I do not carry a cycle lock with me, but leave a selection locked to one of the cycle stands at the station, two of those heavy-duty (and heavy) U-shaped affairs and one cable lock which when I bought it 25 or so years ago was about as much as was ever needed. Today, it's gone, which is unfortunate as it served to secure my helmet ($7.99 from Safeway in San Antonio ten years ago, so am I really worrying to much?) and in partnership with the other devices my bike to the rail provided. If it has been stolen, it seems an odd choice of target unless the thief happened to have a key that fitted. If I inadvertently locked up someone else's bike with it and they had to cut if off, let me apologise publicly (though if this were the explanation, I would have expected to find the remains left at the scene).

When I was born, this country had exactly the public transport infrastructure it would need now to convey millions of workers (whether hand or brain) to their workplaces each day, and home in the evening. I could have strolled down a country lane and taken a train from the station serving my home village - or perhaps, as I realise that I don't know whether it actually had a station, go a little further to the next village, which certainly did.
Instead, I cycle along the route of the railway that fell victim to the Beeching Report, passing the site of what would have been my local station the yard of which is now a development of "executive" houses called by a bureaucrat with a highly developed sense of irony Beeching Close.
I was going to write something banal about the failings of economic planning, but I doubt that the free market would have done much better. Supply and demand - demand especially - don't take much account of long-term environmental changes.
So today we might have escaped the seven-minute delay outside reading, caused by the train in front being delayed alongside the platform because it was overloaded: "Too many passengers", out train manager explains, though as he isn't reading from a script his announcement is not concise and to the point. But on reflection the problem is the number of people (and therefore trains) trying to get into London, and if Dr Beeching had not swung his axe as he did there would be more of both trying to get into the termini.

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