Virtual Railway

There's a text version of this page, if you're bored waiting for this 112K jpeg.

You can find a larger, almost legible, but (naturally) unclickable version of the map here. The real railway, post privatization is allegedly run by Railtrack. Of course, they chopped up the actual running trains bit into lots of different companies, so now you haven't a clue what's going on. Train conductors are forced to wear silly degrading uniforms and to be totally inflexible about allowing you to do what it'd be sensible for you to do if it might involve thrupence ha'penny going to another operator. The railway used to be run by humans for humans. Now it's run by paranoid zombies for shareholders, shunting disgruntled zombies about the place whenever they can find a driver.

And yes, I know there was never a golden age. Trains have always been late or smelly or afraid of the wrong kind of leaves. The difference is that it used to be a service whose staff belonged to one organisation which didn't mind if a conductor gave you a bit of a free ride back the other way if you fell asleep and missed your stop. Nowadays it's a business and the conductor would love to show compassion and flexibility, but is more afraid of getting it in the neck.

Of course it's just as good if not better if you're making a fairly standard straight-there-straight-back journey at the time you booked for three weeks ago and everything goes to plan, but life is frequently not as simple as that. On the trains, just as in so many other situations, it's a higher and narrower ridge we walk these days, and if you stay on that ridge, you're fine. What depresses me is that when you slip off that ridge, the people who would previously have helped you back on and still want to, won't because they can't or they're afraid of being caught.