‘A skeletal service will run due to adverse weather. Passengers are advised not to travel.’ Train indicator at Mortlake Station. Photo BBC on-line News.
(Click on picture to see original on BBC ‘Winter weather slide show’.)
A fall of some four inches of snow caused chaos in South Eastern England on Monday. 1 in 5 people failed to get to work. All London buses were cancelled in the morning. Trains and tubes were cancelled. Schools were closed. Two Eurostar trains became trapped in the Channel Tunnel. Today South East Britain slowly got its act together, but new snow storms spread the chaos to Wales and the South West.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember the great winter of 1962-63 travelling as a young schoolboy alone by train from Paddington to Leamington Spa. It was really cold and as we crossed the GW&GCJR viaduct at Denham I could see icebound narrowboats trapped on the Grand Union. But the trains and Underground ran almost normally. Nobody dreamt of saying ‘Passengers are advised not to travel’. My parents were quite confident that I would arrive on time at my destination. Britain was a different country in those days and the railways were run by railwaymen and not ‘managers’.
Rail pundit Christiam Wolmar picked up the same theme in his blog, What is missing is the old ‘the show must go on’ Windmill spirit. The spinelessness is reflected elsewhere, too: Camden’s parks are all closed for safety reasons and the government building where my daughter works was threatened with closure because not enough security staff had got through the snow.