09 July 2010

Weird logic

Was it an April Fool? Did I mis-read it? Was Christian Wolmar having a laugh? Those who've read his column in the most recent RAIL will sure know what's to follow.

In a recent meeting with the new Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, Wolmar reveals some rather odd (and worrying) thoughts from the head of the Department for Transport. What initially caught my eye was Hammond's inability to understand why cars give way to trains at level crossings and not the other way round.

Yes, this is true. The Transport Secretary - already nicknamed 'Petrol-head Hammond' by Railway Eye - seemed to think that the logic behind cars having to wait at level crossings a little strange. Wolmar dug deeper and deduced that the Transport Secretary was unaware that the railway network was older than the road network so has priority because it was there first. Never mind the effect this would have on train timetables.

"Give him a break, he's only been in the job a month" is what some might be saying. True, but there are some fundamentals a transport secretary is surely expected to know. I suspect GCSE History would cover the formation and evolution of the railways in relation to the road network as we now know it.

In another very recent meeting with the Transport Secretary, we understand Stagecoach's chief executive Brian Souter has been explaining just how damaging the Coalition Government's consideration to scrap the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), or fuel duty rebate, would be. The previous administration was considering removing the fuel duty rebate set at a fee-per-mile and replacing it with a per passenger premium (making the quieter services even less profitable), though rumour has it Hammond and his DfT are considering just scrapping it altogether.

The result? Bus fares would, by and large, increase by between 20-30%. A number of months ago, one LEYTR operator told us their single fares would increase by 20p and returns by 30p. And this is independent to the annual increase they make.

It would appear the government like trumpeting transport's green credentials, but aren't always willing to commit financially.

The general consensus amongst transport watchers is that rail will be hit harder than buses, purely due to the leg-up the rail industry was given by the former transport secretary, Lord Adonis - a self-confessed railwayman. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall. The bus industry's saviour could come in the strange form of Liberal Democrat Norman Baker - thought to favour re-regulation through Quality Partnerships. While private bus companies in the main shy away from such agreements, it's the lesser of two evils when the threat of BSOG's removal is considered.


Anonymous said...

Another important factor is surely the fact that trains go a lot faster and take a lot longer to stop?

Anonymous said...

Quite so. Making cars stop for trains has NOTHING to do with the railway network being older than the roads and everything to do with the laws of physics. A train would have to start decelerating long before its driver could see whether any cars were approaching the level crossing. And the energy cost of delaying/stopping and re-accelerating a train is vastly higher than that of a few cars doing the same.

I agree that it's deeply worrying that the transport secretary doesn't understand this.

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a world we are becoming (have long since become?).
People finding other people's lack of comprehension strange, then suffering from an immediate and serious lack of comprehension themselves, as highlighted by the 'anonymouses' above, in itself makes me wonder where common sense starts and stops these days.

I think I shall call it the 'limited intelligence of finding fault', as this has zero hits on a very popular search engine. This post may thus also serve as a small test on how findable even 'anonymous' snippets may be in the future and will hopefully be my 'tag' to finding this and other 'delights' (as in the title) again in the future.

posted 15th July 2010, nametag: ecofx.

Looking forward to more comments. Let's call ourselves the 'Level Crossing Movement' - a fight for reason over derailed judgement, giving common sense priority over ignorance.
Hope this gives the search engine databots food for thought ;)!