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Obviously it’s a travel day today. I’ve been using National Express on the East Coast a lot recently, and while I have issues with some of their services, it’s at least better than this vision provided by Simon Hoggart in today’s Guardian:

A witty reader (he’s not sent his name, fearing legal reprisals) sends in a wonderful fantasy in which Michael O’Leary of Ryanair buys our east coast railway and runs it like his airline. The ticket prices will look like amazing bargains, say London to Edinburgh for £1.

“But these principles will apply: fee of £5 for internet booking, £5 for timetable inquiries, £5 for credit card payments, £20 for clicking the OK – pay button, admission charge to station, charge for compulsory on-board ticket inspection, £5 alighting fee, £10 penalty for not pre-ordering £5 alighting fee, and that’s before we’ve started on the baggage charges and the £10 for those mini-carrier bags from the buffet if you want to get back to your seat (£7.50 compulsory reservation charge) without spilling coffee all over you. The company dismissed the £1 blowing-your-own-nose fee as pure speculation.”

Of course, the universe makes fools of us jokers, with any joke about Ryanair soon being fulfilled by Michael O’Leary’s relentless drive for profit and publicity. I used to joke about them making an extra charge for seats, for example. So, while jokes about Ryanrail may seem funny now, imagine just what horrors O’Leary could inflict on rail passengers by combining his ability to slap a price on everything with the petty bureaucracy and officialdom that has been part of the culture of British rail since, well, British Rail.

‘You may well have a ticket for that train, sir, but you’ve yet to pay your gate transit and platform access fees, and while it might be the last train home tonight, it’d be more than my job’s worth to let you get on it.’

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Interesting article in the Guardian by David McKie about the naming of train stations -often after the nearest pub – and how those stations then went on to provide a name to the areas around them. Of course, were that to be attempted now, confusion would reigh supreme as people tried to work out which of the many Station Stations they were trying to navigate between while Colchester’s North Station would find itself renamed Norfolk, just to confuse even more commuters.

Though the story about the attempt to rename Bond Street tube station as Selfridge’s does create interesting visions of alternate tube maps, which could serve as an interesting hook for an alternate history story – Farringdon station would have to become Guardian station, of course.

It’s one of those interesting little pieces of social history that shows how much the coming of the railways changed Britain, in a way that will no doubt prove very useful for the long-future generations of historians and archaeologists.

And, to add in a little bit of railway-influenced geography, Redditch (where I grew up) has a road called Tunnel Drive, which confuses many drivers by not being a tunnel or seeming to go anywhere near one. However, it is where the old railway tunnel used to emerge when what’s now the Cross-City Line carried on all the way down to Evesham rather than terminating at Redditch.

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