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Too Sensible to lobby for rail

Sunday, November 15 2009

Captain Sensible

The Captain’s diesel locomotive. Photo ©The Quietus.

(Click on picture to read the full interview by Luke Turner with Captain Sensible.)

The Quietus, which targets the intelligent music fan between the age of 21 and 73 has published an interesting interview with Captain Sensible. Captain Sensible was born in London just a few years after Dyspozytor. He is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of the punk rock band The Damned in 1976. He left the band in the 1980s to concentrate on his own career, but rejoined in 1996. He still tours with the band today.

Given the Captain’s unusual career path his views on the fate of Britain’s railways are remarkable close to Dyspozytor’s own. However, the Captain expresses himself in rather stronger language than most of today’s railway pundits:

That was Thatcher’s whole thing wasn’t it? The car economy. She never travelled in a train when she was Prime Minister. Another reason to dance on her grave when she goes – her hating trains, and that’s apart from all the other stuff like making the miners unemployed. We’re reaping the benefits of her Premiership now aren’t we, because just when we need people making stuff in Britain we don’t make anything at all. We’re importing everything from South America and China. It’s sickening that we don’t make engines in Crewe, Didcot and Swindon any more. All those technical skills have gone.

Maybe that’s where we have gone wrong. During the last 50 years most of Britain’s railway enthusiasts have been patient and polite. During this time: the country has been robbed of 2/3 of its railway network; wagon load and part wagon load freight has gone; the Railway Research and Development Centre has been closed; Britain’s great indigenous railway manufacturing works have been demolished; the Channel Tunnel, which was supposed to be a link between the railways of Britain and the continent, is being operated in the manner of a ferry for heavy lorries and a self-contained ‘tube’ service between London, Paris and Brussels; essential maintenance has been skimped; trains have crashed and our fragmented railway has become the most expensive in the world. Need I go on? Meanwhile road building has continued unabated and health problems, associated with petrol and diesel engine pollution, are soaring.

Perhaps, we have been too sensible. When Dyspozytor fought to save a railway line in the 1970s, he played dirty. There was a ‘sit-in’ on the railway track as the contractors were lifting it. Articles appeared in the local and national press. Sir John Betjeman was recruited as a patron. Local residents sent telegrams and hundreds of letters. It was a tough fight but we won.1

Read the interview with the Captain, let your anger rise…  And the next time your fare rises above the rate of inflation, or your train is cancelled, or you suffer appalling passenger service… let the decision makers, from the prime minister downwards, know how you feel.

1This was the occasion that John Snell writing in the Trains and Railways magazine, and objecting to my methods, described me as a ‘political huckster’.

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One comment

  1. The Clash’s Joe Strummer has a Class 47 loco named after him. Iggy Pop advertises car insurance and Johnny Rotten advertises Country Life butter.

    Ręce opadają!



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