Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The 12:05 from Paddington . . . won't be going to Devizes

The other night I saw a bit of Ian Hislop's documentary on the Beeching reforms which closed down something like two thirds of the nation's rail network in the 60s. I didn't know it was on or I would obviously have watched the whole thing. Fascinating stuff. I've always lived in or around cities, or at least large towns - I grew up in commuter-belt Surrey, and then lived in Leicester for six years before moving to commuter-belt Herts - so I've never been far from a railway station, and I suppose I have always taken them for granted. I remember being profoundly shocked when planning a trip to Devizes in Wiltshire that the town didn't have a station - what a backward place, I thought - but it seems that I was the one with my head in the sand! It turns out that there are vast tracts of this land not served by the railways, where "public transport" means getting off your backside and walking.

I remember reading Thomas The Tank Engine stories in my youth (back in the days before he had a plastic face and a Scouse accent (he's from Leicester, you know), and being mildly bemused by references to "branch lines". Thinking about it, every station I can think of is connected to a major city. Even when I've been up in Yorkshire, marvelling at the fact that places like Guiseley and Yeadon are actually connected to civilisation, I've always been heading either into or out of central Leeds. It's always irritated me that to get from Hitchin to St Albans, two towns in the same county, you have to go all the way into London and back out again via a change of station. Now I know why that is.

It's all left me feeling rather glum, to be honest. After all, a town, village or even a hamlet without a railway station is like, oh I don't know, the human body with no arteries. If you see what I mean. I'm not sure I do myself, actually, but surely everyone should have access to the railways. That's the whole point.


At 10:14 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

So now you know why cynics like me tend to use the car more often.

When I commuted from suburban Nottingham to suburban Birmingham, it would cost the same to go by train, but would take twice as long, including a soul-destroying 25 minute wait in New Street station (as the connecting trains were every 30 minutes, and I would just miss it). As guilty as I felt about my environmental impact, there were only certain lengths to which I was prepared to go.

I haven't even mentioned my ex whose family lived in rural Devon...

At 6:48 AM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

Much as I hate going to London on occasion for work, I am very grateful that there is a train to take me there.

At 3:40 AM GMT+1 , Blogger savannah said...

at least all y'all have trains! perhaps one day the usa will understand what mass transportation really means! xoxo ;)


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