Carbis Bay Whistlefish

Whistlefish

Most of us enjoy a journey on a train, but these days often the trains are not running very frequently or more likely, the fares are too high for most people to travel. Here are a few ideas to go back to the days when we let the train take the strain of travelling from A to B!

Read rules and tips for train travel with pets. Animals must be kept on leads or in carriers, and bring plenty of water and treats, to keep them happy and relaxed. Pets are not allowed on seats or escalators (they must be carried) and never allow animals near train. 

Split My Fare offers a way to get money off reserved tickets. Say you were travelling from London to Glasgow. Instead of buying a direct ticket, often it works out cheaper to buy 5 tickets rather than all-in-one). Just enter your destination and this site works out the price and can give a pass to print the tickets  at the station. If travelling to Europe, Interrail offers good passes, either for one country or one pass to travel through several countries.

GO-OP! is England’s first community rail line, developing routes using a program that will see the public own its own trains (a bit like a community shop but for trains). The first route aims to connect Somerset to Wiltshire, focusing more on areas with poor train travel, rather than (like HS2) always focusing on London.

simple ideas to improve our train stations

Although many of our train stations are housed in beautiful buildings, who decided that all of them should have the same branches of WH Smith, Costa Coffee and Greggs Bakers? In some areas, train stations almost have a monopoly on the prices they charge. Some people have unsuccessfully campaigned for free water fountains in train stations, but the powers that be refused, as they would not be getting high rents from coffee chains, if people were hydrated for free.

Making areas pedestrianised and linking bus stops to train stations would help, as would giving licenses to indie cafes and shops, over all the main usual chain store players. In Portland (Oregon), volunteers walk disabled and blind people through confusing platforms until they are confident, and all the train stations and platforms have information in Braille. Having accessible toilets also helps, especially when people have to wait a long time.

And with all the wonderful graphic designers around, why are all schedules (trains and buses) so badly designed and confusing? Surely someone can redesign them? It’s confusing enough for most of us, let alone for people with bad eyesight or mild dementia etc. Look at what Canva offers as a sample template, someone could surely fill in the information to make schedules easier to read?

why high-speed trains are not good for wildlife

summer valley Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith

A lot of countryside in England’s Chiltern Hills (home to native wildlife) is being destroyed to make way for the disastrous HS2 project, a fast-speed train that will kill 22,000 wildlife yearly once built, based on estimates of similar projects abroad. Experts say it won’t even reduce climate change (some planned hubs are for airports?) We need to slow down, not speed up.

A report by wildlife experts says that the HS2 bosses have got their calculations all wrong, and instead they suggest that HS2 remap existing routes (if the project goes ahead) to apply correct nature values, it should use up-to-date methodology (and make this available) and pause all construction immediately until new (correct) findings are assessed by government. Sounds hopeful, but unfortunately most MPs (of all colours) voted for it (find out who your MP is and how they vote on environmental issues at TheyWorkForYou). Even one MP who is ‘against it’ did not vote against the government, just is listed as ‘absent’ from the vote?

Financial Times journalist Simon Kuper lives in Paris, and regularly ‘zips into London’ on the TGV (France’s high-speed train) and is not a fan. He says that the UK project is simply a ‘vanity’ because we don’t need high-speed rail anyway, as England is a quarter of the size of France or Spain and London to Manchester is only half the distance as Barcelona to Madrid. So ‘that knocks out one argument’ that the journey would replace flying, as we can get to places easily, without a plane. People fly from Rome to Milan, they don’t need to fly from southern to northern England.

Critics say the money (which is colossal) would be far better spent on updating current rolling stock in areas of England that have ageing rail tracks and carriages, and bringing back public transport (trains and buses) in areas that have no public transport. Many towns and villages have closed railway stations and bus routes that have disappeared (and never come back) after the pandemic. So while rich city businessmen take high-speed trains (when they could hold virtual meetings) that money could be spent on ensuring little old men and ladies get a bus into the village to their shopping, or a stressed young mother can take the train or bus with two children into town, to visit the doctor.

The money could also be spent on making current trains more affordable, as they are colossal in expense at present (much cheaper to drive long distances). And many rail companies now have to pay out for taxis to ferry passengers during long journeys, as there are no interlinking trains.

BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham recently took the government to court, to try to stop HS2, on the grounds that it would lead to irreversible damage to ancient woodlands and habitats (already, England’s second-oldest pear tree in Worcestershire has been cut down to make way for it). Another concern is that swans and geese often mistake rail tracks for rivers when flooded, so would be at risk from high-speed trains.

His case was that the government was firstly badly advised, and that secondly it did not take account of its obligations under the Paris agreement and Climate Change Act of 2008. Of course he lost. What a surprise.

HS2..maybe not going to Manchester..maybe it’s the train to nowhere. Never mind. Let’s keep trashing the environment and draining the public purse. Chris Packham

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