Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One Butt, Two Hands, No Joy

Reporting of little local difficulties (as the Foreign and Colonial Office might once have had it) is not really within the remit of this blog. However, as it’s Christmas and my creativity is taking a hit, my next three entries will ostensibly be reports of goings on at the local level. I should be excused however, as they serve as excellent case studies of a more general problem.

Our first voyage of discovery takes us to Saltash, which for those with slightly lower standards of cartographical knowledge is the first town on the Cornish side of the Tamar, which thanks to its location at the end of the road and rail bridges serves as a suburb of Greater Plymouth. Indeed, the western side of Plymouth is somewhat blessed in transportation terms, retaining as it does one of the few suburban rail services outside the major conurbations. Perhaps the most important site served by that service is the naval dockyard at HMNB Devonport, one of the area’s major employers.

With its own station perched at the end of the Royal Albert Bridge, Saltash was thus an ideal location for many of Devonport’s employees, who for many years enjoyed an early service that delivered them to work nicely on time. Until the latest timetable revision, however, when that service was retimed so it now delivers everyone to work late. While commuters on the Devon side of the Hamoaze can still use the train (as a separate service runs up the Tamar Valley instead), the Kernovians are left high and dry, in this case literally as they are forced onto the road bridge.

The economically enlightened amongst you might speculate that the demand for the service at that time was not actually high enough to justify its running and that it was removed on that basis, reducing the economic suicide that such a decision might ostensibly appear to be. My response to that would be to point out that the local rail franchisee in Devon and Cornwall is First Group, and the bus franchisee in Plymouth is… First Group!

Integrated (n.) any system in which alternative service providers are owned by the same company, allowing the anti-competitive destruction of one provider for the benefit of the other.

No comments: