Now that the McNulty report on the UK’s railways has been officially published – rather than hinted at in a number of media reports – the Fourth Estate is coming to terms with the reality of the proposals, and that these do not necessarily tally with their own previews.
Foremost of those realising they trailed the wrong angle are the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, who had, earlier in the week, told how McNulty would herald an easy to understand fare system, less ticket types, and new and flexible “airline-style” ticketing.
As I observed at the time, this was complete rubbish. As any fule kno, a more nuanced and flexible fare system is not going to be a simpler one. So there isn’t going to be less complexity. This, at least, is being taken on board by the Mail, as they concede that, for instance, fares for trains just before and after peak times – the “shoulder of the peak” – are likely to rise.
This last conclusion is not rocket science: South West Trains (SWT) had already done the deed years ago, bringing in more revenue and avoiding the crush as the peak ends. And the Mail shows just how little its management know of rail travel as it tells “more commuters could be trapped into buying peak fares”. Er, hello? Commuters already pay peak fares – they travel in the peak.
There then follows demonisation of both unions and “fat cat rail directors” (who they?), a classic Mail attempt to offload blame for a subject it has difficulty understanding (plus there is the inevitable photo of Bob Crow, but he isn’t otherwise mentioned). As far as is known, no union official, or director of a train operating company, enjoys a remuneration package in the same league as the Mail’s best paid hacks.
And Dacre himself, with his million and a half a year, neither sets a good example, nor a good influence: he is chauffeured from country pile to city pad to office and back again, and so is unable to identify with those who use public transport. Combined with this, he clearly has no specialist transport journalist on his staff (Ray Massey writes about cars - that doesn't cut it), and the reportage suffers as a result.So it’s no surprise that the paper shows such a poor grasp of the subject.