There were a few neighbours at my bus stop, discussing that train strike threatening this Saturday’s Grand National.
“If anyone needs so-called managers on trains it’s Merseyrail!” declared Jock, an expatriate Scot who, nonetheless, rarely sees anything worthwhile in living here.
But we all agreed. Why, only recently, She Who Knows and myself had an unpleasant rail experience returning one Sunday from a day out in Manchester. Two strapping youths in our carriage were lounging with boots on opposite seats, shouting and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Fortunately, one of the few other Northern passengers on board knew their father and cajoled them into behaving slightly better.
“Get those feet off the seats!” shouted our conductor entering the carriage and clearly angered. They denied causing trouble, generally making him out to be a fool – but She Who Knows backed up the official with a clear-ringing, “Oh, yes they were!”
He threatened them with police boarding at Poulton and that settled them down. But what would have happened without him, or that helpful other passenger?
My father was a railway guard and, on those notorious ‘football specials’, he would routinely lock himself in the guard’s van for protection. The rail police, with dogs, dealt with rampaging, drunken fans.
So, yes, of course the public want officials on board as well as a driver!
I was once stranded in London’s Docklands on an automatic driver-less train. It’s not a future to relish for passengers, many of them holidaying and carrying lots of cash and cards.
Blackpool trams were popular because of regularity and chirpy, helpful conductors. Let’s bring back ‘clippies’ on buses too – and get rid of those annoying, recorded announcements on new trams. That’s the route forward for getting more passengers out of cars and on board public transport. So, let’s ring that bell and go!
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