Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Humbug; a winter's tale of public transport

Let me make something clear now, in the first sentence, at the top of the article. I hate snow. It's cold, wet, white, icy, cold, snowy, slippy, and cold. I also hate ice, for much the same reasons. In all honesty I get a bit 'bah, humbug' around this time of year anyway; people anticipating Christmas at the end of November or beginning of December wind me up; it's far too early. So clearly I've been really enjoying myself the last few days; cold, icy, snowy hell that it has been.

It highlighted an interesting problem though, and one which in it's conclusion will have you wondering if this is really a car website. I'm about to advocate the improvement of public transport.

Yesterday, I slept on a friend's sofa - weather conditions were awful, and as I needed to be in university again today anyway to present my radio programme, I stayed where I was. The weather did it's thing, and it was clear that if I didn't make an attempt to return home today I'd probably not get back until Easter. So attempt I did.

Huddersfield to my home in northern Sheffield involves three trains, if the direct route is cancelled - or if for snow reasons you don't fancy risking being stuck in a small village in the back of beyond. So I went via Leeds, Wakefield, and the Meadowhall shopping centre. The finale to this hellish journey (Class 142 Pacers are awful trains at the best of times) was a two mile uphill walk in a foot of the godawful white stuff. Arrived home rather drained and on the chilly side.

My point is this; not only do we need to overhaul our public transport system, but we need to ensure that it functions when weather conditions aren't ideal. During my two mile walk not a single bus passed me, and not one of my trains was on time. I may like my car, but I appreciate public transport - if you can't drive, are prevented from driving by conditions, or can't afford to drive, it's a vital part of the infrastructure. But it needs to be a part of the infrastructure people want to use all year round. Tonight, I'd have killed for a bus, or for a half decent train. But most of the time we couldn't car less because we don't use them. The green mob desperately want us to leave our cars at home, but on the few occasions we have to we see nothing to encourage us to do the same voluntarily. If in 2900 a Class 142 carriage were to be found by some great great great (insert many hundreds of 'greats') grandchild of mine, he or she would instantly assume that in the Noughties being five feet in stature qualified a human to consider himself tall. At a good fifteen inches taller, I can confirm that modern trains have no legroom. Buses are almost as bad, and are noisy and not comfortable.

Now step back forty, fifty, a hundred years. I'm a frequent visitor of the Worth Valley Railway, and the type of train you'll certainly find there is spacious, comfortable, and has tables to put your paper or your pint on. Travel further back and you get leather and velvet upholstered drawing rooms with en-suite private facilities.

I'm not stupid, I do realise that to travel to university in an Edwardian living room would cost me about four times what I currently pay. But we could certainly do with more space on commuter lines (A bar/buffet would be good too). And wouldn't it be great to reinstate the ways of the past for long term travel?

Let's start though, by getting the nations trains and buses running in winter. I'm not the only one to want it.