I arrived at Bristol Parkway railway station tonight (I still haven’t found where Parkway is just yet) to find the following poster: “We’re giving Bristol back its Great Western Railway”. Yes, God’s Wonderful Railway (GWR) is back! Except that it isn’t. It’s just corporate bullshit.
The GWR, lest I remind you, was engineered by one Isambard Brunel, the son of a French asylum seeker. Founded in 1883, the GWR existed until 1947 when the railways were nationalised and it became the Western Region. John Major was the prime minister who later privatised the railways, something even the crazed Thatcher thought was a step too far and these days the railway is owned by the First Group, a piss poor private company set up purely to make as much money as they can get away with.
Brunel’s GWR gave us Box Tunnel, the Maidenhead Railway Brige, Bristol Temple Meads, the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash – need I go on? The present pale imitation of the GWR gives us 40 year old Inter City 125s and poxy ‘sprinter’ units. The current GWR boasts about providing extra seats, faster journeys, more reliable trains, free WiFi and better parking. “More than £7.5 billion is being spent to build a Greater West”, as if to suggest they are generous benefactors, doing this purely out of the kindness of their hearts. I’m all in favour of sitting rather than standing, getting from A to B a bit quicker and knowing my train actually might turn up. Free WiFi is only to be expected – it is 2016, after all – and better parking. Better parking? Therein lies the story and therein lies the answer to what and where Bristol Parkway is.
Most people use the train to get to work. Bristol Parkway offers ‘GWR’ trains to London, mainly, solely, I’d say, for the upper middle classes and above, using rolling stock that was still antiquated when God was a boy. Local services are run in modern day cattle trucks, filthy dirty smelly ‘Sprinter’ trains that jog rather than sprint. This is not God’s Wonderful Railway. It’s the railway to hell.
Think about it. Isambard Brunel, engineering genius; First Great Western, get rich quick private company. Never the twain shall meet here.
“We’re giving Bristol back its Great Western Railway” is, what is known in technical terminology, total bollocks. They’ve changed their name, that’s all. It’s no different from George Osborne’s “long term economic plan”, an utterly vacuous soundbite if ever there was.
The GWR is not back and it never will be. The commercial team at First are trying to persuade us to the contrary, suggesting that Brunel is back from the dead and taking us back to a golden age that never really existed. He’s still dead and this is little more than a First class scam.