A Railway Rant

24 Sep

I suspect you’ll have heard me talking trains before. Fact is, when you live on the water, they are never very far away and the tracks often run parallel. They actually cross the river at Kecksy’s Bridge, near to my winter mooring.

I’ve no axe to grind with them really – before today that is – I like to see them slice through the countryside, I like to ride on them and I even like some of the sounds they make.

In truth, it’s not the trains that have wound me up today but the level crossings… 010And probably not even them, more the people that operate them or, in all probability it comes down to the dreaded Health and Safety Rules.

This was one of the 10 trains that held me up for 20 minutes this afternoon in sunny Cheshunt. I kid you not – 20 minutes during which the barrier didn’t lift once.  That’s an extraordinarily long time when you are static.

And I thought Roydon was bad.

It’s not like it was a train every two minutes… no it was two or three together then a stonking great long wait. This happened a few times and each time you get to thinking ‘Right, now the barriers will lift’ but no, another brain numbing 3 or 4 minute break before the next sighting.

They even keep you behind bars while the train is stationary in the station.009 Could this be the origin of the word stationary?

So tell me, why can’t they let a few cars/pedestrians/cyclists through while people embark/disembark? This would ease the congestion I’m sure. There were huge tailbacks both sides as you might imagine.

Is it a little man in a uniform exercising his power, having a laugh at the poor, frustrated motorist – already penalised, picked on and punished till their ears bleed. That same motorist. who was by now largely out of their vehicle, stretching their legs, leaning on the barriers looking up and down the track and actually talking amongst themselves.

I have to say that there was no real impatience or rowdy behaviour, as you might expect in this situation, but rather it was a sort of get together. Maybe this is the way that Cheshuntonians socialise – never mind the pub, café or market place, let’s all go down to the station at 4 o’clock and hang around the level crossing. A kind of enforced, non-negotiable break from the daily grind. Got to be good for twenty minutes or so…

It’s quite interesting to see how high the tolerance of the pedestrian is too. They seem to hang around for so long (and notably longer still if they have a bike/pushchair to haul across) before they give in and trudge up the metal stairway to get to the other side.

We are all fond of knocking the ridiculous health and safety malarkey, and no wonder, but I would go so far as to say that it is having the reverse effect. I can fully understand that, in this situation, why folk might dodge around the barriers and run across the track (often with tragic consequences) or hit the throttle and try to beat the barriers when the red light starts to flash.

But tell you what…

The little man in the office didn’t half get those barriers up quick smart when he saw me snapping away with the old camera.

Coincidence?

Maybe I look like a local journo, looking for the next opportunity to slag off the railway?

I sure I don’t know.

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