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Time to clip the wings of the jobsworths

Friday, March 19 2010

With an election on the way, what better time to write to your prospective parliamentary candidates to ask demand that if they get elected they take urgent action to stop the harassment of railway enthusiasts.

Marylebone Station from Rossmore Road Bridge. The flying saucer building has encroached upon the site of the original western platform. If Sir Edward Watkin’s plans had succeeded the whole of the area occupied by this building would have become part of Marylebone Station and the station may even have served trains from the continent arriving via the original Channel Tunnel.

Guest editorial by Mike Pease, the founder and vice chairman of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership.

A few days ago, I was walking up platforms 3-4 at Marylebone, looking at work that had recently been completed on the station.  A voice behind me suddenly barked, Get back! I turned to see an irate figure in a hi-vis vest glaring at me from the end of platform 1.

I had passed no signs forbidding me to proceed further.  I was nowhere near the end of the platform; nor was I anywhere near either of the edges.  No trains were about to leave, and I was not engaged in any activity that could remotely have been construed as a distraction to a driver or an obstruction of a signal.  Furthermore, I was carrying neither a camera nor a notebook.  Accordingly, I took my time and completed my walk, despite further bellowing.  Nobody stopped me when I returned to the station concourse.

Today (18/03/10 ) I alighted from a Bristol train at Paddington at 12.40p.m., to be greeted by a harshly-delivered Tannoy announcement that all photography was forbidden ‘on and around’ the station.  No information was given on the exact limitations of ‘around’, nor on how the ban was to be enforced.

Clear statements have been made, to date, by the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, by the Chief Executive of Network Rail, in response to questions in the House of Commons and by several of the train operating companies to the effect that the public are free to take photographs on stations provided that they do not obstruct normal working.  Commercial photographers are required to obtain a permit from the Station Manager.

Nevertheless, the number of incidents of ordinary enthusiasts being stopped, bullied into deleting photographs and generally treated in a rude and officious manner by ‘officials’ is steadily increasing.

In America, far from being treated as terrorist suspects, enthusiasts are encouraged by the railroad authorities to act as extra pairs of eyes and ears and to report any suspicious activities.  Why is it that they are harassed in Britain for no good reason?

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One comment

  1. I too have been hounded from the end of platforms 3 & 4 at Marylebone. In particular the yellow security coated guards do not like you going under the overbridge. This is despite the fact that it is a passenger area. You can get there without passing any “No passengers beyond this point” notice.

    Alas, I haven’t been challenged recently, but I am really fed up with their habit. Next time I am told that “CCTV don’t want you there” I will finish taking my photographs and then take him off to see the Station Master.



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