Sunday, 12 December 2010

London? Shanghai? Tokyo? Nope, Network Rail taking the p**s..!

The railway station pictured above is in Wales, as the Welsh advert indicates, but this is about public money, tax from everyone in the UK.
(Please see below for the English version)

I’ve been too busy, too tired and spent too long deliberating over this post. No point, it’s mostly simple vitriol aimed at useless UK Rail Services, wasteful Public Authorities and the despicable Labour Party, so I might as well just let it out.

To follow on from my last post, a couple of things have occurred in Newport since the end of the Ryder Cup and none of it is positive. I was just going to add to the post with criticism of the new railway station, but as I mentioned the appalling state of Newport City Centre, well it has now actually managed to get worse. More shops are leaving the city, including Marks & Spencer, and the Passport Office may close. So Newport is really moving forward in the afterglow of the Ryder Cup, well done…

Fingers are pointed at various parties, of course the Coalition (it is Wales, Labour’s heartlands), with regard to the Passport Office, but ultimately I think the Labour party have a lot to answer for and the situation in Newport does illustrate some of the fundamental problems caused by their Government.

The Comprehensive Spending Review has taken so many of the headlines over the last few months, but let us not forget for one moment what brought us all to this point. The financial crisis, exacerbated by our over-reliance on that sector, was the major cause of course, but the incompetence of the Labour Government and the ability of that Government and their associated authorities, to frivolously spend tax payers’ money were also major factors in bringing the country to its current plight.

Network Rail with the help of the Welsh Assembly Government (and I believe Arriva Train Wales and Newport City Council also had some part in it), erected this monstrosity in Newport, a few hundred yards down the road from the old station.

The “Futuristic” New Station in Newport


The Old Station

What’s wrong with that building? Nothing; is the simple answer to that. It now stands unused, like so many shops in the city centre.

The 'Vision'

The Reality

Similar to my last post about Newport City Centre, I wonder did the ‘artist’ who dreamed up the 'vision' picture ever visit Newport? Or Britain for that matter?? That really is a vision of ‘a future’, sometime, somewhere… Not sure where he/she got the idea for those trains...?

The station opened to some fanfare, just before the Ryder Cup was due to start. It was pretty much rushed to finish in time for the event and that’s not surprising since it was the only major development that coincided with the competition, all other projects having fallen victim to the economic crash.

I’ll go into some of the details why this station is so ridiculous, but basically what I want to show is the problem of poor planning and of the complete and utter incompetence of Public Authorities in this country, particularly in Wales. Newport is a revealing example of this situation and also of the failure of 13 years of Labour Government. Which is also something I want to highlight, because it is all too often over looked in so many quarters, again, particularly in Wales.

So just a quick summary of the problems of this station and why it is such a pointless waste of money; firstly there was a perfectly reasonable station in existence, as pictured above. The main reason they built a new station was because of the Ryder Cup, to create some sort of good impression for all the visiting fans. Do they think people are impressed by s**t like that?

If the opinions of Americans were the concern, do they think the US fans are expecting hastily nailed together pieces of corrugated-iron and plastic, attempting to ape constructions in more developed parts of the world (parts of the US for instance) and completely out of character with the surrounding area?! Or might they be more impressed with a well preserved and/or renovated Victorian building?

The people in charge of promoting the city for the Ryder Cup certainly attempted to emphasis Wales’s historic setting, so how confused does this hunk of sh*te look, slapped in the middle of a decaying city centre?!!


I think originally the thought was that the old building would be utilised in some way, but while other projects were shelved and now businesses are leaving the city centre, the two unstoppable juggernauts in the public sector of collective idiocy and bureaucratic incompetence kept this project moving at a good pace…

Because most of the other city centre development projects were pulled, the station is now completely out of line with the rest of the centre. The old station was at the end of a street which, while certainly under-developed, could have had potential for success in the hands of competent planners. The new station is not aligned to any street, off a round-about and dual carriageway, behind an unrelated car-park and 300 odd yards further away from the shopping areas and bus station (which was already quiet far away). There is nothing close to it, even though it is in the city centre and there is no suitable proximate area to develop around it.

Some of these concerns were voiced a long time ago by the local authorities.

Not that the City Council can redeem themselves due to the state of the rest of the city centre, but it’s clear concerns were raised, before the project was started and in late 2008 as the financial crisis was in full swing.

So they went ahead and spent at least £22 million (although I have seen greater amounts quoted) on this monstrosity. A lot of people may have thought ‘well they’ve gone and done it, at least they’ll provide better facilities, etc’. Well you’d think…

But no, remember who this is? It’s Network Rail and the associated public authorities. It’s a little closer to its car-park, but there is no greater capacity in the actual station. There are no extra ticket windows or machines, there are less ticket barriers, when they were predicting so many extra fans going through the station for the Ryder Cup and there is no travel centre, when the old station had that facility. So really there's less capacity and there is increased pressure on the normal windows from advanced tickets and more complicated bookings.

The one shop there was in the old station has been moved to the quieter entrance on the other side of the new station from the city centre. Most people have no idea it’s there.

On the platform there is little change, the new station does mould into the relatively recently added fourth platform, but the main central platforms still have the old shelters that haphazardly join the new stairway. The old café, waiting rooms and toilets are still used, but are by the old station, as you would expect... These facilities are a long way from the new entrance.

The only mildly significant improvement is a lift to that recently added platform, but I have no doubt that this could have been managed with the old station and more significantly, at a much reduced overall cost.

As with everything that is associated with our incompetent public authorities and their massive misplaced expenditure, there is plenty of positive propaganda.

The only benefits that they are even claiming are the green credentials and the alleged improved position, which is only true with regard to the car park. It’s not even clear to me that they have returned optimum improvements for car parking, when it seems to me that they could have used some of the space taken up by this new hunk of metal for extra car parking, while the old station just rots 300 yards down the road!

Yet more propaganda, this time from Network Rail:

Bull***t straight from the horse’s mouth and there is a time lapse video on that link showing the construction occurring. But the camera is facing away from the city, so you can’t see the city decaying before your very eyes. If you were to stand still in Newport for only one day you will catch a glimpse of it rapidly declining…

I note the mouthpiece from the City Council changed his mind and, well, most of that press release is utter b**locks! I quote “improved ticketing and information points and more shops” as bare-faced lies.

And speaking of the propaganda I come back to my title and this poster:

I’ve seen these posters in a few different stations, but the two posted here are from Newport station itself and there were more. Advertising the station, in the station! Genius…

They obviously think it’s funny, not pathetic.

I don’t even know where to begin with it. They are taking the f***ing p**s!

Obviously in the poster they’ve blotted out the rest of Newport in the background, but 20 minutes crawling through the town in the ever painful approach to the station would certainly limit the chance of any confusion as to your whereabouts on arrival in this “iconic” station..!

Yes, one might expect such a station in the rich and highly-developed cities stated, but in a backwater like Newport, a town in desperate need of effective planning and development, it just looks ridiculous.

But these people are completely deluded or at least they appear to be so, from the constant sh*te they spout in support of their ill-conceived projects. They actually think that people will see that poster and think 'Ooh I might go there…' I don’t mean train enthusiasts. I’m sorry but they don’t count and I doubt, after you factor in flasks and packed lunches, that they bring a lot of revenue to any particular area.

Do they honestly think the average person will turn to a friend and suggest a trip to Newport upon seeing this ‘advertisement’?
“What? Go to Newport? Why?”
“Well I like the look of that station, can’t believe it’s in Newport! Looks interesting. What else is there in the town?”
“F**k all!”

And they will have spent a lot of money on that poster.

Anyway, now the Ryder Cup has gone and the desperate need to be positive from all quarters seems to have at last faded, the reality is beginning to bite.

Note the quotes that state “much” positive feedback about the station. Intangible really…

It seems that they did temper their plans due to the financial situation, the plans were meant to be grander with more shops and facilities, so why not pull it completely? Why have this half-ar*ed waste of space that provides little, if any, improvement for over £22 million?!

Perhaps aside from some of the ‘eco-friendly’ boasts, the extremely limited improvements that have been made could have been easily achieved in a renovation of the old station, at considerably reduced expenditure.

This is the problem; these imbeciles are in charge of huge sums of tax payers’ money (and rail fares). They have no competition, they didn’t make this money in a competitive market as a normal private company would have to and more money will automatically come in to replace the millions that they sp*nk wherever they f**king feel like. They don’t have to justify their decisions to markets, investors and customers (that is customers that have an open and free choice as to where they obtain their services), they only have to justify it to other inept public authorities and to the general public (and that's the least of their worries). And let’s face it, as you can see from all the bull***t these organisations spout, they always have each others’ backs.

Other public authorities have vested interests in this project and their culture, grown up in the years under Labour, is be constantly and consistently positive. If you say it enough people will begin to believe it.

Got each others’ backs…

Bunch of ****s!

The city centre is crumbling and they spend over £22 million on an absurd looking lump of metal, one which contains barely any extra facilities.

I don’t need to point out to any rail users that the services are absolute s**t, no matter what statistical evidence they produce, anyone who catches trains on a regular basis knows the services are pitiful. And the worst is First Great Western, one of the main providers in Wales. The trains are unreliable and over-crowded and the delays are consistent. In fact their definition of ‘on time’ makes most of their statistics obsolete.

Network Rail can talk all they like about customer ‘satisfaction’ and service ‘reliability’ being at record highs but if that is indeed true, any rail user knows that is only because the levels of both used to be virtually zero!

The service is terrible and massive investment is still required, so they spend over £22 million on a station.

A station does not improve the service. It can improve the comfort and convenience in-between use of the trains, but overall it cannot improve on terrible service from the transport itself. There is so little in this station that it is difficult for them to claim any improved service, but they do. Look through all the propaganda and you will see they think it does, or at least they say it does.

Quick analogy for these cretins; a fancy new bus-stop does not prevent the bus from getting stuck in traffic, breaking down and ultimately stinking of p**s!

Similarly and as with my comment early on the station being some sort of attraction, do airline passengers choose a destination or who they fly with, or even whether they fly at all, because of what the airport looks like? No! Of course not. In terms of the airline they consider cost and service, and the destination speaks for itself.

So I’ve been through those factors in terms of rail services and Newport as a destination. These f***wits’ arguments don’t stand up.

F***wits who repeat that the station or any new building in an urban wasteland is ‘iconic’! There’s a University campus being knocked up on the riverfront on the other side of the city centre and that’s going to be ‘iconic’ as well. In fact they use the word to describe two different constructions in this article. It loses all meaning when these idiots keep repeating it to describe every f***ing lamp-post they can afford to stick up!

But back to the station as briefly as possible, again along the lines of service and the purpose of this folly, they have built this station while other smaller stations, lines and services remain closed.

There are numerous examples of this throughout the country and in South East Wales they have opened the station and line from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff. It stops in a suburb of Newport, but it doesn’t stop in Newport, to the consternation of many. Obviously cost is an issue and it doesn’t look like it’ll be opening any time soon.

What good is a f***ing ‘iconic’ station if you haven’t even got a rail service that gets you to the f***ing place?!! Apparently the EU are putting in £21 million to improve the network, local authorities just spent £22 million on this f***ing lump of sh*te. Jesus H Christ!

This is your money. Network Rail is publicly owned and the Welsh Assembly Government receives most of its money from Westminster. Even Arriva Trains Wales, the only “private” company involved in this project, are heavily subsidised.

If it had been private finance the project would have been pulled and/or fundamentally reconsidered. But as I have stated this is your money, taxes and fares, combined with the unstoppable momentum of bureaucratic incompetence; massive sums of money placed in the hands of idiots. Authorities incapable of changing direction and making sensible decisions, but most importantly not properly held to account for their ridiculous actions.

There is a serious logic breakdown in all of the reasoning and excusing from those responsible, but all done simply to cover up their stupid decisions and incompetence.

They say this ludicrous facade gives a good first impression of Newport, but what about the second impression?

Firstly the fact that there’s nothing in the station and then you step out into the desolate wasteland that is the city centre. What kind of impression does that give?

From a station exit you see a barely used shopping centre and car park and the back of a Travellodge

Allegedly the Welsh Assembly money was only available for a new construction, so this encouraged the illogical behaviour. More effective planning and decision making there, utterly incapable of making a common sense call, outside the realms of policy and procedure

Over £22 million, the local authorities input could have been spent improving the horrific city centre. In this time of austerity it could have been spent on schools or hospitals, budgeted for more needy and worthy areas. A f***ing footbridge..!

But this is where we are after 13 years of the most ridiculous Government this country has had in a long time. Behind all of this kind of incompetence and failure is the spectre of the Labour party; all their actions and everything they stood for.

The belief that throwing money at anything is in some way an automatic solution to any problem and the core belief that if you repeat something positive enough times, people will begin to believe it and ultimately accept it. It’s all about spin and it’s all bull***t.

With this station they claim it is good for the local economy, will attract further investment, etc and stand by their excuses even when they tore apart in front of them. But actually the local economy will benefit little, such a project benefits private contractors most of which would not have been based in the area, the labour used was unlikely to be have included many local people, the station itself makes little or no difference to the service for local rail users and the new building does nothing more to attract investment than the old station would have.

Out of the £22 million, how much makes its way into the local economy? Very little; is the simple answer for that one.

Newport also throws up a great example of Labour comfortably taking their position in opposition and it really grates. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts it is all too easy for them to criticise any actions by this coalition government made necessary by their own mistakes and they come across looking good; as the memories fade and the ill informed are easily swayed by their apparent altruism. It is very easy to pick holes when they have no responsibility and fortunately they are in no danger of having any power for a few years yet.

They are scoring cheap points from the consultation on Newport's Passport Office (Peter Hain here) and so many people conveniently over look the fundamental issues.

It does seem like a poor decision by the current administration, aside from an ever decreasing number of shops and the usual bank branches, estate agents, recruitment agencies, etc, there is nothing in the city centre. There are very few private firms of any significant size. The Government may well reconsider and the office might not close. But to me the situation highlights the fact that Newport did not develop under the Labour Government and you can see the same story throughout so many regions in the UK.

However, the vitriol is all stored up for the Tories and of course there is particular disdain for the “ConDem” coalition, with the Lib Dems seen as some sort of collaborators and all of this seems to be accentuated in Wales.

Far too often, especially in Wales, the Labour party come through apparently blameless. But it’s also obvious why; they did like to spend, no matter what the end result, so a lot of people liked that.

People have got to remember there was a world wide economic boom during the majority of their time in power. And to be put it very simply Labour did f**k all during the boom years to develop the Welsh economy. All we got was an expanded public sector based on financial sector growth and as I have already mentioned, it is the same story in so many regions. The crash completely undermined this ridiculous approach to economic ‘development’.

Labour’s transparently thin economic strategy was quite clear to me only four or five years after they came to power and it quickly became frighteningly apparent in areas such as Newport and the most parts of the valleys. The likes of Cardiff and Swansea benefitted from their size and status, and the public spending combined with more of a multiplier effect.

If Newport City Centre is decimated because one public sector office is closed, who’s to blame?

Those who are to blame will be pointing the finger elsewhere, that is for sure.

I went on far too long about that contemptible railway station, but it is circumstances such as those I have described in Newport that are the underlying cause of my disdain for the Labour party's politics. Pretty much everything is their fault.

A lot of people are confused about the bankers’ role in all of this, of course they made massive errors, but the Labour government overlooked it, happy to spend the tax receipts without asking too many questions and they didn't save a penny.

Now many talk of making the bankers pay, but a government, of any of the parties, would not be able to maintain any significant level of public spending without a functioning financial sector. They can’t screw the financial sector because that will screw the economy; an economy that is still over reliant on that sector.

I will write more about Newport, it genuinely is a good example of the failure of New Labour. Yet with two MPs returned at the last election, it’s apparent the electorate don’t hold it against them.

Also the empty rhetoric about Ryder Cup is now vaguely amusing and I have seen some laughable statements on the website of Newport Unlimited, the development agency.

The underlying feeling here is against the Labour party but this is about all public authorities, in charge of sometimes eye-watering sums of other people’s money and with clearly very little clue what they’re doing.

Network Rail’s profits have doubled they recently announced and I would hope every single penny goes into improving their archaic and absolutely sh*te rail network.

Their “futuristic” construction

What kind of future?

To me the reality is a nightmare vision of the future; this monstrosity looms large in a decaying city centre, mocking the current circumstances of the vast majority.

But unlike a future Dystopia from science fiction, it isn’t an evil corporation or power crazed despot behind the discrepancy, in Newport’s post-Labour reality it is public money that has been used to create this perverse situation, as so many struggle to make ends meet.

They haven't got a clue...