IS there a problem with television and film companies when it comes to railways?
They either get key facts badly wrong or they present the programme in a patronising way.
We should have been delighted that the BBC had decided to feature railways as part of a
three-day ‘Trainspotting Live’ series, but the quality of the finished product was lamentable.
Many of you have called, written and emailed The RM, embarrassed about the live presentation, with its gushing over-the-top enthusiasm for very ordinary things. Using the ‘spotter’ tag was derogatory, too.
One reader told us that the programme ‘merely reinforced the stereotype of the obsessive trainspotter’, while another thought The RM might have the power to get it off air! If only…
The repeated use of the term ‘anorak’, several notable factual errors, unfunny jokes and calling the network measurement train the ‘flying banana’, without adequately explaining its vital purpose, were to the show’s detriment.
Then to cap it all, the BBC admitted some ‘live’ footage was really five months old and had come from a video streaming site! Enthusiasts are very passionate and knowledgeable about railways and will spot silly errors quickly.
Thank goodness for the NRM’s Bob Gwynne, author Michael Williams, and others, whose expert explanations were a breath of fresh air.
To be fair, there were some very good bits in the series – the interview with Sir Kenneth Grange was fascinating, as was the 125 Group’s HST restoration, a look inside the York ROC, and the Parliamentary trains.
However, to get viewers to tweet or email when they ‘spotted’ HSTs and 66s – two of the most numerous types of diesel on the network – was so ordinary and clichéd.
Good railway programmes on TV are few and far between, but trying to adapt the ‘Springwatch’ formula to railways simply doesn’t work. As licence payers, we expect quality from the BBC.
This was not it.
Network Rail failing on basic housekeeping
LOOK at any picture of a steam-hauled train in the 1950s and 60s and you will probably see
well-manicured linesides, devoid of vegetation and overhanging trees.
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a cab ride in a Class 37 on the main line and was shocked at the excess of vegetation on the lineside.
On the Up slow just north of Bedford, the bushes and trees had been ‘shaped’ to the side and roof profile of passing traffic, while the disused platforms at Hatch End look like a mini-forest.
What kind of impression do passengers get on seeing unchecked vegetation?
Parts of my journey around west and south London were in a green tunnel – one that Network Rail should be dealing with.
While unsightly, there is a serious side – signal sighting and overall safety.
From the secondman’s seat, with a wider angle of view, even I was struggling to see signals as they were obstructed by trees, so it must be very tough for a driver on his own with a narrower viewing angle. Plus it raises the risk of a SPAD (signal passed at danger).
So come on Network Rail, let’s see some positive action on vegetation. There is no excuse.
Safest railways in Europe
JUST a day after the horrific head-on crash in Italy, the Rail Safety & Standards Board released its annual report.
One glowing statistic is that there were no passenger or workforce fatalities through train accidents. This is the ninth year in succession with no such fatalities, and is the longest period on record.
It means that UK rail safety can be considered way above near rivals like Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and The Netherlands.
I know from visits to worksites and depots how crucial rail safety is viewed, always in terms that everyone should be able to work safely and go home to their family safely, too.
We should be proud that not only do we have the safest railways in Europe, but there is immense work taking place behind the scenes every day to make sure that trend continues.
THE RM is delighted to present a free DVD with this month’s issue showing the exploits of ‘A3’ No. 4472 Flying Scotsman during its visit to Australia in 1988.
It contains some classic steam footage, and I very much hope you enjoy it.
Chris Milner, Editor