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Author Topic: An editorial column  (Read 1283 times)
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« on: June 04, 2022, 08:33:44 am »

I find myself personally very uncomfortable or shall I say depressed with the whole business of the future of the railways at present.  It feels like we have a government on one hand determined to cut costs with little thought to the future (or perhaps with thought to an unwritten future with severely reduced public transport) and on the other hand a union or unions who are pushing for their members and their members future to the detriment of rebuilding public transport post-pandemic. The passengers, and even the private train operating companies, seem caught in the middle between the Dft and the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers) if we name key player organisations.

Of course, this is a personal view and tempered in current times by so much news and so many views on social media that it is hard to know what is really the situation, and in any case each of us will form our own view of the metrics. In the past, I would have been more favourable to government and less to the unions, but these days I am not so sure; I do find it ironic that those who have so strongly campaigned for rail and other public transport to be government owned and operated have seen much of that desire come about, and yet are already unhappy with the new order - "careful what you wish for" time.

The Coffee Shop is a passenger forum. We have traditionally (I can call it a tradition after fifteen years) looked at journeys, fares, comfort, catering, timetables, loadings, loos, connections, reliability and things like that.  But of late, it feels we have been overwhelmed by bigger topics - climate and the environment, covid, brexit, war in Ukraine, inflation and food shortages, fuel poverty, government / union relationships and equality matters. These matters and their consequences have a huge impact on travel and transport and we cannot (or perhaps SHOULD not) avoid them.

On these big topics, some of us get sufficiently worked up to post our views outside the travel arena far more directly that we did in the past, and with a passion and a wording that is  sometimes an affront to others. It's sometimes a message that members who come here for a quiet railway chat find uncomfortable with, and I'm really sad to have lost a couple of really good members in recent weeks slating this as a reason. Several other have commented to me away from our boards that they have a degree of disquiet and are posting less for concern at the bigger topic and passion overwhelming them and taking much of their pleasure away - not quite "frightened to post" but rather drifting that way.

Where am I headed?  To a reminder to members (and at times to myself too) ...

* to remember we're a public transport passenger with expert input arena first and foremost and to limit off-topic stuff, posting a little if you like on the "And Also" area for frequent posters, but even there keeping the volume down

* to remember that we have members with many different views and tolerance levels, and here on the Coffee Shop, reasoned discussion wins out over shouty stuff

* to remember that points once, twice, thrice made may be good but by the hundredth time in exactly the same vein, you should be aware you are loosing your audience and perhaps even being counterproductive

* to remember that if we take an adversarial or insulting view with others - especially those in positions of authority and power - we will sour our relationship with them and it will be remembered for a long time. As an example away from the forum, I don't forget suggestions that I'm incompetent or corrupt because I happen to be on the Town Council!

But we have a lot to celebrate here too

* So many questions answered and matters clarified over the years

* Such great friendship and enjoyment in what we do

* Some changes influenced for the good - often little things that make a big difference.

I remember two contrasting meetings I attended. One was here in Melksham, soon after we arrived in the town. "We are just newcomers" we said, and they said "so we once - welcome and joining us".  The other was in a neighbouring town, where they didn't seem to know how to handle a guest and I had a lonely evening, though saw an interesting lecture.  I'm always aiming for the former approach and not the latter in postings here. One and all guests and new members welcome - our membership with its varied friendly inputs is our lifeblood.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, and on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest.
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2022, 10:02:07 am »

Very well said Graham. Agree with every word and I couldn't have put it better myself.
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2022, 10:55:26 am »

I take your initial point, grahame. At times like this it can be hard to remain positive. Big money is being invested in railways at the moment - Elizabeth Line, Bank Station and HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)), for example - but locally things are standing still or going backwards. MetroWest could have been delivered in full, transforming travel around Greater Bristol, for the cost of the bank Station upgrade. Meanwhile useful services such as Bristol to Waterloo and Brighton are removed without proper consultation or alternative. As the Portishead saga drags on, it becomes harder not to believe that strings are being pulled behind the scenes to prevent it from opening. Meanwhlle the hope that WECA» (West of England Combined Authority - about) might become an Integrated Transport Authority seems to be unravelling, as once again the constituent councils seem happy to risk losing funding to score political points.

So maybe we all need a bit more 'And also..!'

Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.
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You can find out more about how this forum works [here] - that will link you to a copy of the forum agreement that you can read before you join, and tell you very much more about how we operate. We are an independent forum, provided and run by customers of Great Western Railway, for customers of Great Western Railway and we welcome railway professionals as members too, in either a personal or official capacity. Views expressed in posts are not necessarily the views of the operators of the forum.

As well as posting messages onto existing threads, and starting new subjects, members can communicate with each other through personal messages if they wish. And once members have made a certain number of posts, they will automatically be admitted to the "frequent posters club", where subjects not-for-public-domain are discussed; anything from the occasional rant to meetups we may be having ...

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