Give them a piece of our 'Mind the Gap'

There's nothing like a bit of death to get Railtrack moving. I'd volunteer myself, except...

Share

The next-door village to us is called Freshford and has its very own railway station, where trains still stop on request. Yes, you actually put your hand out, and the driver hoots as if to say, "OK, I've seen you and I'm stopping, so you can put your hand down," and then stops. I was once waiting there when a train came towards the station, somebody waved, and the train screeched to a halt
beyond the station. The guard put his head out and roared, "We don't stop here!", and then train went on again...

The next-door village to us is called Freshford and has its very own railway station, where trains still stop on request. Yes, you actually put your hand out, and the driver hoots as if to say, "OK, I've seen you and I'm stopping, so you can put your hand down," and then stops. I was once waiting there when a train came towards the station, somebody waved, and the train screeched to a halt beyond the station. The guard put his head out and roared, "We don't stop here!", and then train went on again...

Nice place. Sometimes 125s come through on diversion. Not so long ago they altered one platform to let these big fast trains through safely, and this has created a gap between the platform and any train that stops. It's a big, high gap, too challenging for any but quite a fit and agile passenger, and impossible if you've got a child or push-chair or big case or frail legs. This meant that a great slice of Freshford's inhabitants suddenly couldn't take a train from their own station. Going one way they couldn't climb up on to the train, coming back the other way they couldn't get off unless someone came to meet them with a stool or step ladder (which, I kid you not, has been known).

A local group made protests to Railtrack. Railtrack apologised and made a commitment in writing to do the necessary work last winter. No such work was ever undertaken, as Neville Chamberlain might say, and consequently we are now at war with Railtrack.

Or that is how it seemed last Monday night, when the West Wilts Rail Users association held a regular meeting at the Inn at Freshford to hear representatives from Railtrack and First Great Western. Normally, I gather, there are 20 or 30 present at such meetings. On Monday there were 100, maybe nearer 200, crammed into a sultry upstairs room. No sooner had Andy and Julian, the two railmen, been introduced prior to spelling out the network's future, than objections were raised.

"Hold on one moment!" cried the man next to me. "Everyone here tonight has come because they're worried about the future of Freshford station, not Britain. We want to know about Freshford, and whether it is going to be closed down!"

There was a loud chorus of approval of this, which brought a frown to the chairman's face.

"Look," he said, "this meeting was planned long ago as a general meeting about the rail network. We don't want this meeting to be hijacked by Freshford Station protesters."

"Oh yes we do!" shouted the crowd, in true pantomime fashion.

"Well, let's see what Julian and Andy have to say first," said the chairman, "and perhaps we can talk about Freshford afterwards."

And Andy and Julian then did their presentations on the future of our railways, grimly conscious that nobody present was really interested if it wasn't about Freshford. Andy spelled out Railtrack's noble investment plans. Julian sighed over the terrible overcrowding at Paddington, and everyone waited endlessly to ask questions about Freshford, which then turned out to be a waste of time, because Andy said it wasn't in his remit, and Julian's company doesn't even run trains through Freshford. Julian and Andy were people who thought big, about things like expanding Paddington and putting fresh platforms in at Bristol, and couldn't believe that such an intense meeting had such a small thing on their minds...

But I think that, however parochial outwardly, Freshford has a very big thing on its mind. Has not Gerald Corbett, head of Railtrack, repeatedly said that safety is the overriding concern? Has not Freshford station been reconstructed by Railtrack in such a way that most passengers cannot leave the train safely without the use of a small step ladder? (I find it tricky myself.) How does Railtrack explain the fact that on their network they have a station where it is actually dangerous to leave the train - and where the danger has been created by Railtrack's own work ?

Mark you, the solution seems obvious to me. All that is needed to get Railtrack moving is for a volunteer to get out of a train at Freshford one day, and fall as he alights, and sustain fatal injuries. There is nothing like a bit of death to get Railtrack moving, as we have seen recently. I'd volunteer myself, except that I live in the next-door village to Freshford, and it would seem too much like interfering in their business.

But I'll keep you posted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities