The Mail On Sunday’s resident misery guts – and this week he really is in Miserable Git mode – is Peter Hitchens, who is aghast at the prospect of the Royal Train having to be decommissioned some time in the near future. This so concerns him that he would rather worsen the crime rate among those ordinary people among whom he does not move, in order to fund a replacement.
Tornado with the Royal Train at Crewe
Is the Royal Train that old? Well, the two end vehicles in a typical formation are BR Mark 2s with opening windows, which makes them around 45 years old. The remainder are BR Mark 3 coaches, some from the prototype InterCity 125 train, and the rest from production builds. But the Mark 3 has been out of production for more than 30 years, and it would be impossible to build nowadays.
For starters, although the Mark 3, of all-steel monocoque construction, has shown itself to be very good at protecting its occupants in a crash, the coaches would not pass modern safety standards. And they suffer increasingly from corrosion, a process that cannot be held back forever. By 2020 the ones in the Royal Train will be at least 40 years old. Retirement of their main-line cousins will begin soon.
Moreover, the age when BR, as was, could just reshuffle the pack to make up a Royal Train, with the Government of the day seeing them right, are long over. The expense of having a one-off train of free standing coaches – to satisfy Hitchens’ requirement for occasional steam haulage – would be eye-watering. And all new train orders are inevitably franchise route specific.
But Hitchens is not put off by mere facts. His solution? “How about the methadone programme, for which George Osborne mugs the taxpayer of nearly £300 million each year, on behalf of criminal heroin abusers?” he opines. Yes, how about a journalistic dinosaur parading his ignorance and prejudice? He thinks those people commit crimes. With no treatment they would commit a heck of a lot more.
And the wider community should tolerate having treatment programmes effectively dumped on them, so that money can be diverted to allow Hitchens and his pals to demonstrate their ability to grovel and scrape before symbols of power and privilege, providing something that “would give dignity to the monarch and pleasure to the people”. I’d go for the pleasure of less drug related crime, thanks.
So off goes Hitchens, whining “But our Leftist elite reckon that, if they can’t have palaces, trains and yachts, nor can anyone else ... And the ill-named Conservative Party is too scared of the BBC and the Guardian to defend such things”. Oh f*** right off Hitch, the civil list and Royal estates won’t stretch to the cost, and if you want the Royals to have a new train, get someone to open their wallet. You won’t.
The Royal Train was for a time, but maybe not for all time.