'Forward With Technology'

or ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’, as advertising men speaking cod-German say.

I’ve just bought meself an Oyster Card – prompted largely by the announcement that the cash price of tube tickets is going up, but oyster tickets are coming down. I guess the plan is to get more people prepaying for tickets, topping up either automatically or online, and therefor not clogging up ticket-halls with huge queues, and getting people in and out of the tube network quicker. Either way, the price decrease is welcome, and the increase isn’t, so I’m getting an Oyster card.

And what’s more, Oyster cards make a great bleeping noise when you go through the barriers. Very satisfying.

Britain’s public transport is currently a shambles. Well, not all of it, but certainly the london tube, and the national rail system are nowhere near of the standard they could and should be. Both are pretty much crippled by PFI, or the threat of PFI… The selling off of the Tube was one of those things that nobody, save people managing investment portfolios, wanted. Everyone except the government recognises that what’s needed is huge investment, on a level that won’t be profitable to the tube enough for it to work under private investment. That’s because the benefits won’t be felt by the Tube itself. it will be of benefit to London, make it more attractive to tourists, render cars a pain the ass, and generally improve access for all Londoners, but the necessary renovations will cost billions of pounds.

And I haven’t even started on just how far short of the legal requirements for disabled access the Tube system falls. Somewhere less than 10% of the stations are wheelchair accessible. What it must be like traveling by tube for a disabled person I dread to think. There’s no way that the PFI funding is going to prioritise disabled access – there’s no money to be made in helping cripples get round London, of course. They can just get their mobility busses, and rely on friends to ferry them around. Clearly their independence means nothing in this most modern of modern capital cities.

Anyway, I will soon be Oyster-boy, swanning in and out of tube stations without a care in the world.

Soundtrack – KD Lang, ‘Ingenue’.

2 Replies to “'Forward With Technology'”

  1. Hi Steve 🙂
    You know me already through my moderating http://www.bassworld.co.uk.

    Did you know I also work for Transport for London? Are you aware that TfL are now responsible for the tube stations in London and that they’re in the process of starting a massive programme of station upgrades? This programme is intended to address requirements under the DDA amongst a wider remit of environmental improvements.

    As far as I am aware, the money being spent on this programme of underground station improvements across the whole network has not been made available through PFI.

    If you want to talk about it more in person, I’ll see you at next week’s gig. 🙂

  2. Hi Steve,

    I look forward to seeing the station upgrades – if everything goes to plan, it’ll be wonderful… it remains to be seen if the cash keeps flowing to do the job properly. If the disabled access issue is finally dealt with, it will be to the credit of TfL for sure – London suffers from having the first tube system in the world, so everyone else learned from our mistakes, and there are certain improvements that would be great but just so insanely costly and disruptive as to prove impossible (like dualling the entire network, so that trains can run 24 hours, with the maintainance being done on the opposite track on alternate nights. :o) )

    I’d love to talk more about it, though I’ve a feeling I’m going to have my hands full at the gig…!

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