View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wednesday 14 September

A day of sunshine and showers, although the latter receded during the latter part of the afternoon. I have spent the better part of the afternoon transcribing more 1942 tributes, and am now on the last 30. Some of the articles consist of a photograph and a few lines; some are a whole newspaper column long, and the columns in those days were more than 2 feet long. As I have come to recognise the limitations of the photographs, I end up splitting up lengthy tributes into more than one picture.

There has been a lot of gentle ribbing in this island's internet output about all the dire warnings regarding last Monday's storm. However, reading the reports in the Press and Journal newspaper, it appears to have been a lot worse elsewhere in Scotland. Sometimes it is better to be a lot further north than everybody else.

I was stunned to read that the British Transport Secretary feels that train travel is a rich man's plaything. Well, Mr Hammond, you'd better get your finger out to make it transport for everybody. Trains are public transport. Rail travel in the UK was privatised in the 1990s, and there are now two dozen different train companies providing services. These are more interested in generating profit, it would seem, than in providing a decent service. Worse than that, next January fares are set to rise by 8%. The current rate of inflation in the UK is 4.5%. There are a lot of people who rely on trains to go to work, and have no alternative.

One other gripe is the idiosyncratic fare structure. Two years ago, I was travelling from Inverness to Darlington, a town in northern England. The distance is about 320 miles. The fare I got out of Scotrail was £96 single; splitting up the journey into a Scotrail and an East Coast Trains segment reduced it to £56. The dearest fare ever found was a single from Penzance to Kyle of Lochalsh - an eye-watering £1,000. The distance is approximately 700 miles.

The above complaints are longstanding, and no political party has the bottle to put the train companies down to a decent fare structure. End of moan.