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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
The return of your Rail Commuters' Champ
Jon Yuill, voted by users of BBC News Online as the man to speak up for rail commuters, has not gone away while people's attention was focused on Iraq. But just because the trains haven't been in the news much doesn't mean all is running smoothly, he says.

Commuters bound for home on Friday would have no doubt seen the evening's headlines about a chap who did a parachute jump from the top of Nelson's column in protest at China's occupation of Tibet.

Well, keep a lookout folks, because your fearless Rail Commuters' Champ is considering a similar protest, when I intend to show my opposition to the proposed removal of the "price cap" on rail tickets (and therefore almost certainly leading to price increases), by launching myself headfirst into the tank which holds the festering human waste on platform 12 of Liverpool Street.

On second thoughts, I'll probably do what most of the British do and just whinge. Yes folks, once again it's time to play that age old national game "Kick the Commuter".

Elected: Jon Yuill was voted BBC News Online's rail commuters' champion by users of the site
Voice: His role is to speak up for the commuter
Commute: Married with three children, Jon commutes by train between Witham (Essex) and London
It seems the Strategic Rail Authority has finally realised what we all knew years ago. Namely, that certain industries simply don't make money (take the NHS, and nuclear power for two) - but boy, are they necessary. Yet far from ploughing some realistically-sized sums of money into them, surprise surprise, the response is to hit the passenger firmly, right between the season tickets.

Again. And again and again.

With no viable alternative and the roads fuller than an undersized brassiere, it's time to cough up.

Must the train take the strain?

Being an environmentally minded kind of chap, I'm finding it increasingly hard not to advise all those who can to simply cash in their train tickets and jump in their cars instead. Except of course, there's nowhere to park when you get to where you're going.

Ignoring this, many train services simply do not compare at all with the car when it comes to reliability, comfort or cost per mile, which is the very reason most commuters use the train in the first place.

But just as us passengers have no alternatives, then neither does the SRA. It can't push for more commuters and raise more fares that way, because, with most rush hour trains jammed solid, there's simply nowhere for them to go.

Now there will be those of you saying, "Try living in Baghdad son, and see how you like that." To which I say, sure, if my country had just had the bejeesus bombed out of it, then I'd expect an appalling service. But as a leading world economy, what's our excuse?

Signal problems

When Bill Clinton wasn't too preoccupied with what was going on under his desk, he had a sign hanging behind it, which famously read "It's the economy, stupid".

Now that hostilities are over and an election not too far off, I can only hope Mr Blair will start giving serious attention to those of this country who pay the taxes which enable his foreign exploits, or he may just go the way of a certain G. Bush senior, i.e., winning his war but losing the peace. And that would certainly look like a Groundhog Day. Or perhaps dumb and dumber.

Finally, on the subject of nasty smells, the stench at platform 12 on Liverpool Street (which I have mentioned on a couple of occasions) has become so appalling that passengers are often to be seen retching as they struggle to get off the platform.

The sight and smell of raw sewage (laying less than 40 yards from where food is being sold, Mr Health & Hygiene Inspector) makes me wonder how long it will be before passengers will take to wearing the sort of face masks similar to those worn by people in the far east trying to avoid SARS. Yes, it's time for a new acronym. I give you Avoidance of Rail Smells Epidemic.

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The view from our rail champ
17 Feb 03  |  UK News
Q & A: Rail fares
09 May 03  |  UK


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