Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been busy with a couple of exams, which finally came to an end on Tuesday! I’ve now completed half of my degree and only have my dissertation to write, which seems so crazy, but if I’m honest I’ve realised that the end of university couldn’t come soon enough for me, maybe I’ll do a separate post on my thoughts on that, but honestly I’m excited for the opportunity for change that graduation will bring.

Anyway, I wrote this blog post yesterday whilst sat on a bus for the third time, going back into Central London yet again. I feel like I spent most of my day sat on the top deck, moving at about 2 miles per hour through the streets of London. As I’m sure most of you are aware, yesterday was the first day of a 48 hour tube strike, which is planned to repeat itself next week. As I mentioned, my exams are over so I actually had nowhere to be, but I wanted to be a culture vulture and go to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, held at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s one of my favourite exhibitions every year; I find it really inspiring and some of the stories behind the photos are truly incredible. Highly worth a visit, but be quick as it’s in its last weeks.

I planned my journey so I could just get a straight bus and then a small walk, and quite frankly I’m not really going to complain about it. Yeah all my journey’s yesterday took a little longer and were busier than usual, but I had a seat and I also quite like buses as you can actually see the sights of London, rather than staring at a black tunnel. Apparently I’m not the only one, check out ‘From The Upper Deck’ by photographer Przemek Wajerowicz, (http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2014/02/06/in-pictures-see-london-from-the-upper-deck/). However, having said this, I am truly grateful I wasn’t commuting as obviously it just caused chaos during this time. Below are some of my favourite, most crazy pictures of the chaos the strike caused.

Stratford Underground Station was like this.

Queue Tube Strike

Stratford International and Bus Stop Queues; taken from http://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/the-best-of-the-internets-reaction-to-the-tube-strike

I guess the strike should make people realise how reliant we are on the tube system; yeah we all complain about it (don’t even get me started on my hatred of the District Line), but really it’s an amazing transport system which needs continued investment to manage its upkeep and improvement. Usually I’m totally against Tube Strikes, as I feel the staff strike solely for improved pay, when it’s been well documented that they get well paid and get plenty of benefits. However, on this occasion the strike was in protest of the upgrade of the system leading to the closure of ticket offices. I’m unsure where I stand on my opinion on the strike, obviously I am behind them all the way if job losses are on the line; the staff are so important in the running of the tube. However, reading both sides of the argument, TFL argues that there will still be jobs for all that want to stay with London Underground; staff will be more visible instead of stuck in the offices, they just have to be willing to be ‘flexible’. So who knows how flexible, flexible is. In all honesty, it feels like the unions were quick to take action (there was a very low response rate to the strike ballot), but as with all contentious issues, communication is not great on either side. I guess it’s just going to be interesting to let the fun and games work themselves out.

Let’s just be grateful that London isn’t cut off from the world, unlike Devon. I’ve always said that the rail network into Devon is the slowest, most ridiculous thing. We still have those trains where you actually have to pull the handle to open the door; apparently electronic doors haven’t hit Devon and Cornwall yet!? Literally, the pressure to open that door in the quickest time possible is sometimes quite hard to handle (LOL, bad pun alert). However, due to bad weather Devon has literally been cut off from the world, with train tracks literally being left suspended in mid air, after the foundations have been washed away, see pictures below.

Pictures taken from: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Minister-promises-look-alternative-rail-route-SW/story-20566246-detail/story.html?005

I swear this happens every time it rains quite heavily, you think they would actually do something to help prevent it. Like maybe not building the track directly next to the sea-front, or building a wall capable of defending a wave. Finally there has been news that there is some funding being given towards building better weather defences and the Government has said they will ‘consider’ alternative railway routes into the region. Really though, there is a desperate need to invest in the Devon / Cornwall rail network as a whole. As counties very reliant on the tourist trade, you think they might want to make it feel less like you’re travelling to the other side of the world when you decide to take a train to Devon. Easily accessible surely equals a boost to the economy, right? I literally have no clue how the people with power fail to see this.

What gets me every time on this matter is the fact that the Government has previously baulked at the £100 million price tag of improving the rail network into Devon, yet this is a fraction of the £30 billion being ploughed into the HS2 high speed link from London to the North. When they already have high speed connections to the North, this seems ridiculous. I swear it just feels more and more like the South West is falling off the edge of the Earth; in my hometown they are also closing the local airport. Don’t complain about a bad economy when people can’t even easily access the region.

If only the local paper could channel their dramatics into issues that matter, rather than posting (albeit hilarious) stories about the local shop chasing some poor lad who stole some condoms (my favourite comment on that story has to be ‘Must of been a posh date’, #stayclassyPlymouth) or a post about Wayne Rooney tuning in to Plymouth based TV channel God TV to take his mind off Manchester United’s loss.

All in all, let’s be grateful the London transport system isn’t down for the six weeks the railway into Devon is likely to be; I think Londoners would quite literally be going wild and killing eachother in rage by then.

SJW x

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