Monday, February 23, 2009

Rail travel and Big Brother

In the strict regulation of our lives it seems the railways may be taking a leading role. Being a functional socialist ideal - the mass transit of the populous on a highly regulated basis - we’ve already witnessed Big Brother encroachment through CCTV on trains and stations as standard, restrictions on photography on railway property (although this has never been clarified, one camp believing that the extra eyes and ears of railway enthusiasts help the British Transport Police in their job of vigilance, while another camp, no doubt engendered by officialdom, believes it has a ‘terrorist’ potential), the use of electronic ticket barriers at the city mainline stations that are also being introduced as a means of denying the general public a short cut in getting from one side of the railway to another (eg Sheffield and soon York and many others). Add to this the introduction of smart card schemes like Oyster Card, capable of tracing and tracking your every journey and you have the makings of highly regulated control of the system’s users. Unlike private transport (until satellite tracking becomes standard in every car), public transport and particularly rail, is tailor-made for such BB oversight.

One might also add the proliferation - particularly on South West Trains - of command-like announcements, continually reminding us to buy a ticket before we get on ‘one of our trains’, not to mention the endlessly repeated ‘mind the gap between the train and the platform edge when alighting the train’ and ‘please remember to take all of your belongings with you when you leave the train’, ‘please tell a member of staff if you see anything suspicious’, ‘please keep all items with you at all times’ and lest we forget, ‘CCTV is in operation on this train’, the ‘for your safety and comfort’ bit now deleted putting the onus on us all being potential miscreants.

On the surface of it, these announcements are wholly unecessary, stating the obvious and making a mockery of common sense. But covertly, they are all part of conditioning an unthinking public into robotically accepting commands. On stopping trains where a whole plethora of these are often repeated, I feel like telling the bloody bitch to ‘shut up’. Yet others seem unaware or just oblivious to it. That’s worrying.

The use of automatic ticket barriers at large through stations, particularly outside London, seem to me to be a total waste of money and when used as an obstruction to the general public who merely wish to get from one side of the station to the other, a gross inconvenience. The main reason cited for the introduction is revenue protection, but at stations like York where the bulk of travellers are going medium to long distance to a wide variety of destinations using a wide variety of ticket types many of which aren’t recognised by the machine and whose gates are too narrow to accommodate the large amounts of luggage people on long-distance journeys tend to carry, (unlike, say London Bridge which caters for commuters, most of which use standard season tickets from a narrow range of destinations in commuter-land), they become a definite hindrance and anyway revenue protection is usually conducted on the trains and the station barriers need to be manned to allow people with luggage to pass though the manual gates! As Alan Williams pointed out in the latest edition of Modern Railways, anyone wanting to bunk the system and chance the on-board ticket inspections can do so by purchasing a ticket to the first port of call that the train is making. No, it’s about getting people to conform, conditioning them to electronic barrier checks and adopting an impersonal sheep-like herding principal. Airports are masters of the art.

The innocent days of rail travel are coming to an end as the whole system, particularly in the South East, is beginning to succumb to state-imposed authority and political correctness, which is, of course, a form of fascism.

And on a appropriate note this email from Peter Tatchell just arrived in my inbox

Taking Liberties - Last few days

The marvellous, extraordinary Taking Liberties exhibition at the British Library in London ends this coming Sunday, I  March.

Unmissable!

It tells the story of the heroic struggle for freedom and social justice in Britain, from the Magna Carta to the present day. It shows that all our liberties and rights were fought for and won by the blood, sweat and tears of millions of ordinary people.

It reminds us to defend the freedoms that previous generations gained, so that we can continue enjoying them and hand them on to generations yet to come.


This is more important than ever, as the Labour government continues the biggest peace-time assault on civil liberties since the era of the French revolution: 28 days detention without charge, restrictions on protests near parliament, indefinite house arrest without trial for terrorist suspects, ID cards, mass interception of private emails and phone calls without warrants, CCTV surveillance and tracking of the movement of individuals and vehicles, and the seizure of terror suspects assets without them being allowed to know why they are suspected or the evidence against them - and with no right of appeal to an open court or jury.

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