BRITISH Railways is to close a 12- mile branch line in Essex between Romford and Upminster to all but peak-time trains for commuters. The reason, says BR, is that children are wrecking the railway. Ticket machines have been smashed, supermarket trolleys are regularly hurled on to the line, carriage seats ripped out. The damage runs to pounds 60,000 a month. This retreat by BR's management in the face of the oafish brats of Essex made me sad and angry and rather Herodian, though not quite Herodian enough to reach for the solution mentioned by A N Wilson in his Evening Standard column on Friday. Writing in the wider context of British brutalism - the Sun is calling for the birching of youths who assault old people - Wilson asserted that the root of the problem was that 'nearly every function which used to be performed by proles can now be done much more efficiently by a machine'. Result: 'Ours is the first age in which the plebs . . . have no function in life.' Further result: large circulation of the Sun newspaper, video nasties, drugs etc. Solution (in a less civilised society): 'to sew up the wombs of all Sun-readers' wives'. Not that that would be Wilson's solution, you understand. 'We, the bourgeoisie, are too kind and gentle to admit that there is a whole category of being ruining our country and whom we would be much better off without.'
Perhaps. But I wonder if there is any great shortage of this admission these days among the bourgeoisie, in private. All evidence welcomed.