Archive for the ‘British News’ Category

The Ticket Collector

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


The Ticket Collector’s heading

(Click on the picture to go to the Ticket Collector’s blog.)

The Ticket Collector is a campaigning blog, written somewhat in the style of BTWT and focussed firmly on fighting the worst abuses inflicted upon passengers by Britain’s crazy railway ticketing regime. We applaud this excellent initiative and hope that all BTWT readers who travel by rail in Britain will support the campaign. Here is the entire article which the ticket collector published on January 18. We were going to publish just an extract to give you a taster, but it is so well argued and so pithily written, that any attempt by us at a précis would be to mutilate an excellent piece of work!

Proposed ticket office closures set to reduce choice and increase queues

As you’re probably already aware, several TOCs – notably Southeastern Trains (SET), South West Trains (SWT) and First Capital Connect (FCC), have announced plans to massively reduce staff numbers. SWT tried to claim that the jobs were “management, administration and other roles”, however the BBC revealed that this was not the case (see: Frontline train jobs will be cut). SET made a similar claim. Both SWT and SET claim that “reduced growth” is the reason for this, which is absurd – they are admitting that there is still growth, so why cut staff if their business is still growing? Perhaps they predict that the economic downturn will result in a reduction in passengers in future, and they are pre-empting this now, in order to sustain profits?

SWT proposed massive reductions in ticket office opening plans, these plans were “mostly” rejected (see: Cuts to ticket offices rejected), but the fact remains that some closures are going ahead. FCC are proposing draconian reductions (see: Move to stop ticket office cuts ) which prompted the RMT to launch a campaign against the cuts.

Whenever I visit Waterloo or Victoria stations, the queues for purchasing tickets are enormous – surely they should be increasing staff, at stations such as these, not reducing them?!

So what does this mean for passengers? Well, the TOCs think that people should buy online, use ticket machines, and – in the not too distance future – use smartcards for journeys in the London area, therefore less staff are needed to sell tickets. But at many stations I see ticket machines with no queues yet passengers choose to queue to speak to a real person.

It is now the case that, in order to get good value fares over certain routes, splitting tickets may be necessary. Or, in order to get fares down from extortionate levels for ‘InterCity’ journeys, you have to book in advance. Or maybe you want to purchase a Rail Rover/Ranger.  Or a group may wish to take advantage of GroupSave discounts. These products are not available from machines.

We at theticketcollector do not want to see any job losses, nor any reduction in ticket office opening hours. But if the TOCs are to press on regardless, then they should at least be forced to allow the purchase of the entire range of walk-on fares from ticket machines, and that includes all rovers/rangers, all discounts including GroupSave, all add-ons including PlusBus, and purchasing tickets from any destination to allow combinations to be bought.  And all this must be implemented before any TOC is permitted to proceed with any of their proposed cuts. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

The Ticket Collector has added BTWT to the TTC blogroll. We are delighted to reciprocate.

Damian Green, MP arrested for doing his job

Friday, 28 November 2008

Links updated


Damian Green MP, reading a statement to journalists, late on Thursday night, shortly after his release by police. Frame from BBC video.

(Click to see video on BBC website.)

Damian Green, MP, the Conservative shadow immigration minister, was arrested by counter terrorism police in his constituency home in Ashford Kent at 13:50 yesterday afternoon and held in detention for nine hours. One the face of of it this is a matter far removed from the usual subject matter of Behind The Water Tower, but please read on, all will be explained. Mr Green’s supposed crime had been the leaking to journalists of information, provided by a whistleblower, that was embarrassing to UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, MP. Among the information that had reached the public domain was the revelation that Mrs Smith knew that the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.

Leaking information into the public domain, which may be embarrassing to the government of the day, but which is in the public interest, has long been part of British politics. If it hadn’t been for senior RAF officers secretly providing Winston Churchill with detailed estimates about Hitler’s rearmament of Germany – information which the Chamberlin government had tried to suppress – Churchill would not have been able to persuade Parliament to vote for funds to build up Britain’s own air defence. Thanks to Churchill, and the bravery of RAF pilots (including Poles) the Battle of Britain was won and Hitler’s invasion plans were thwarted.

Reviewing Mrs Smith’s record, there is a frightening list of authoritarian measures which she has supported or pushed through: Tony Blair’s attempt to pass legislation allowing the police to hold terror suspects for 90 days without being charged; her own attempt as Home Secretary to pass legislation permitting the holding terror suspects for 42 days without being charged; a central database that keeps records of all mobile phone and email/internet traffic; compulsory ID cards; issuing 10,000 taser guns to the police; issuing instructions that the police can restrict photography; permitting the prosecution of journalist Sally Murer who is charged, like Damian Green, with ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office’.

Examining police actions, there is a disturbing catalogue of recent incidents: the arrest of 82 year old Labour Party veteran Walter Wolfgan under the Terrorism Act, after he shouted “nonsense” during a conference speech by Jack Straw; the killing of Jean Charles Menzies at Stockwell tube station, during an anti terrorism operation; shooting of Abdul Kahar, when raiding a house under the Terrorism act; beating up and arresting veteran anti-war demonstrator Brian Haw.

So what has all this got to do with railways and why am I so angry? All is about to be explained. In the 1970s, I led a campaign to preserve a railway line that had been closed by British Railways. A preservation Society was formed and British Railways approached. BR demanded an immediate payment of £150,000 (equivalent to some £750,000 today) to retain the track. A brown envelope stuffed full of photocopied documents arrived in my office. Among them was a letter indicating that BR were selling the track materials to a scrap contractor for £30,000 and were pressing for the track-lifting started as soon as possible. The revelations in that envelope, which was accompanied by a Southern Region compliments slip signed ‘003½’, galvanised local residents into action.

Then my phone rang and a lady who introduced herself as the local secretary of the Rambler’s Association proposed holding a sit-in demonstration on the railway track as a protest against the track lifting. I was very naive, and as our backs were against the wall, a sit-in, or in this case a ‘sit-on’ seemed a bright idea. One the chosen day, a group of veteran lady RA members, accompanied by their equally veteran dogs, arrived at the place appointed for the demo and placed themselves at my disposal. This didn’t affect the track-lifting very much, the scrap contractors were given half a day off, but caused consternation amongst civil servants in the Department of Transport (as it then was). With my East European connections, I was a Soviet mole, a threat to Parliamentary democracy. What made things worse, the lady who organised the demo was the sister of the British Ambassador in Warsaw. I had struck a blow at the heart of the British establishment.

Hastily counter measures were put in place, my telephone was tapped, an editorial in Trains and Railways by John Snell thundered that I was a ‘political huckster’, my friend John Slater editor of the Railway Magazine advised me that my methods were seen as somewhat unusual and an attempt by the National Railway Museum to loan us one of their railway locomotives was blocked by the head of Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate.

You would have thought that, with opponents such as these, the railway’s fate was doomed. Not so! It was a feature of British parliamentary democracy in the 70s that it operated under a system of checks and balances. The local county councillor put me a thorough political vetting which revealed that apart from a slightly worrying tendency to lean towards locomotives manufactured in Swindon I was no student radical. (It’s OK chaps, I’ve got over it. I was only a kid at the time.) He went on to rescue the railway, from rival by-pass plans, during several debates at County hall. The local MP was also recruited to the cause. He helped save our seaside terminal station from a dodgy development deal. Eventually, the local authorities came round, the track was relaid and the South of England gained one of its most attractive heritage railways.

None of this would have been possible without the active support of local residents many of whom helped to make the railway a local cause célèbre. As I bang my head in despair, because it is easier to get British narrow gauge railway enthusiasts in London to put pen to paper about the closure of the Krosniewice Railway, than to get any such action from Polish narrow gauge enthusiasts in Warsaw, I reflect that 5 years of Nazi occupation, and 45 years of Soviet-style terror, have left their scars on the soul of many Poles. Even youngsters who have never known communism, but who have been taught by teachers who have, often lack that willingness to ‘raise their heads above the parapet’. Although the spirit of those Poles, who have spent some time living in Great Britain and have subsequently returned to Poland, gives me grounds for hope.

In the 1960s and 70s, Poles were astonished that people in Britain viewed policemen with affection and had no hesitation in walking up to them to ask for directions or advice. In Poland the milicia were seen as little better than armed thugs whose main job was to protect those in power against the dissatisfied masses in whose name they claimed to rule. It is profoundly depressing, as the screw of authoritarianism is slowly tightened in Britain, how gradually and imperceptibly the situation is being reversed.



32,000 people and a dog

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Ribblehead Viaduct (Northern Rail)

Yorkshire Dales Country News

Thursday 8 May 2008

The Settle-Carlisle railway line is now a hugely popular route through the Yorkshire Dales – but back in the 1980s this scenic line came very near to closure.

32,000 people and a dog (a fare paying passenger) objected to the proposed closure. The dog was Ruswarp, a Border Collie owned by Graham Nuttall, co-founder of the Friends of the Settle Carlisle line. After years of campaigning, the line was reprieved in 1989 and, such is demand, its capacity is about to double – a remarkable turn of fortune.

Graham Nuttall and Ruswarp were inseparable. On 20th January 1990 they went walking in the hills, but failed to return. Graham’s body was found on 7th April. His faithful dog Ruswarp had stayed with him for 11 winter weeks. The case attracted much attention at the time – the RSPCA honoured Ruswarp and were inundated with offers to care for him. He lived just long enough to be at his master’s funeral.

click for complete article

Settle-Carlisle Partnership
Wikipedia – Settle-Carlisle Railway
BBC – Ribblehead Viaduct