The disintegrated railway

by

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 11 (February 1, 1935)

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The Home railways rank among the world’s largest dock-owners. Ports like Southampton, Harwich, Hull and Cardiff, are all railway-owned and operated, and at most of the railway-owned shipping centres increasing business has recently been recorded.

Because of the enormous development of Continental business at the Port of Harwich, the London and North Eastern Railway have just opened a new quay-side passenger station at this point, together with extensive new freight-handling facilities. The new passenger station is 920 feet long, and is equipped with booking offices, money exchange, parcels and inquiry offices, and a spacious refreshment room. For freight handling there is a huge new transit shed, 900 feet long and 63 feet wide, as well as a new quay 6,000 square yards in extent carrying three lines of railway track.

Regular sailings between Harwich and the Continent date back to 1863. At the present time, the L.&N.E.R. operate to and from Harwich nightly steamship services with Hook of Holland and Antwerp. The Zeeland S.S. Company operates a daily service to and from Flushing, Holland; and there is also a nightly service with Esjberg, Denmark, conducted by the United S.S. Company.

(Clck here for the remainder of this article held by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.)

It’s difficult for anyone who has only known the post-privatisation British railway scene to imagine the degree of vertical integration achieved by Britain’s railways at their peak. The ‘Big Four’ owned not only the railway stations, railway track, rolling stock, engines, and railway station, but also designed and built their own trains and employed their own direct labour force to maintain everything in tip top condition. Railway owned road vehicles based at railway owned warehouses collected and delivered goods traffic and for good measure the railways owned most of Britain’s ports and sea ferry services as well.

Today’s disconnected railway is not only the most expensive in the world, but also offers apalling customer service. On Monday, former British Ambassador, Craig Murray set out from Ealing at around 12:45 with pre-booked (and supposedly cheaper) return rail tickets to York.

We were due to get the 14.30. However the Central Line was entirely suspended, the District Line had “severe delays” and the Piccadilly Line train we eventually got sat still for a quarter of an hour in Hammersmith before proceeding at a snail’s pace between long rests. In short, a journey that normally takes about 45 minutes between our home and Kings Cross took 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we just missed our train.

National Express then told me that our tickets had no validity on another train; they could not even be upgraded. I had to buy new ones at on the day prices, which cost me over three hundred pounds. Now their train is getting later and later. I am only escorting somebody and coming straight back. I shall now miss my reserved train back and have to buy another on the day ticket.

(Click here for the rest of Craig’s post.)

You would have thought that Poland could benefit from Britain’s mistakes. Not a bit off it – they are taking the British model of the ‘disintegrated railway’ even further!

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One Response to “The disintegrated railway”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    Reading of experiences such as Mr. Murray’s, make one want to cry and / or seek earnestly for a time machine…

    Imagining a similar scenario in better times long gone; presumably B.R could and would have disclaimed responsibility for failure to perform, by London Underground, which was another-and-different rail outfit. Nowadays, though, with so many different undertakings sharing in the whole scene — endless “alibis” now, by which it’s the traveller’s problem, and he has no redress. All very sad.

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