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In which I respond to Mr Longrider's insults and arguments.

My apologies.
I am returning to Mr Longrider's attacks on me. It is all rather tedious and so I have hidden it below the fold. I believe that brevity is the mark of good writing but sometimes it has to be abandoned in the interests of fairness. But I won't be wronged and I won't be insulted as another man on a horse once said.
As an illustration of the futility of blogspheric arguments and how rage can be manufactured against straw men whilst ignoring the substantive it is a classic.
If you have the time, read on and enjoy.

My Original post in full:

Railways Belong In Museums

Body on line causes radio show cut | UK news | guardian.co.uk

A flagship BBC radio current affairs show had to be cancelled after guests including employment minister Chris Grayling were unable to get to the live recording because of a body on a railway line.
Radio 4's Any Questions was due to be broadcast from the National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham, but only one of the four-strong panel for the topical debate show was able to get there on time
.

All very tragic but yet again proving that railways belong in a museum. The invention of the steering wheel made them obsolete. A coachful of politicians and BBC employees could simply have driven round the body, been more fuel efficient, capable of moving more people per hour per mile of track and been more comfortable.
It also could have been diverted to a cliff top for the greater good of us all.

You will note I make several distinct claims:
Railways are obsolete because;
1. Trains cannot be steered around obstacles.
2. Alternatives are more fuel efficient.
3. Alternatives can carry more people per mile of track
4. Alternatives are more comfortable.
5. Implementing a diversion is easier on the road.

You will note I didn't make any claims about political philosophy, personal freedom, the restriction of choice or concreting over the railways.


Mr Longrider and his friendly commentators have racked up over 8,000 words responding to this harmless, slightly tongue-in-cheek brief post.
The chief result is that I apparently have made Mr Longrider realise he isn't a Libertarian but is actually a Classical Liberal. I await my reward from Nick Clegg.

But how well did he and his chums deal with my claims?

(The posts and comments are a stream of conciousness outpouring and so I have cut and pasted what I think are all the arguments. They are below in italics The posts have also been edited after publishing so there may be changes since I took my copy. Any arguments I have missed or unfairly represented please tell me. Please remember the paragraphs have been cut from a much longer screed, so please go back to Mr Longrider for the full version. The headings in bold are mine and are for my reference only. My comments are in non-italics.)

Libertarianism:
My recent spat with the Englishman has served to highlight a strain of libertarian thought that, frankly, disturbs me.
Tim, your prejudices are far too deeply entrenched for that. You have also highlighted the ugly, vulgar, misanthropic side of the libertarian philosophy, one that has always disturbed me – everyone must fit in with your choices, irrespective of individual circumstance or preference. You appear to understand the monetary cost but fail to recognise that cost is not merely measured by money, which is a pretty basic economic reality. That may not be an accurate analysis of your position, but reading your words, that’s what comes across.
Presenting a logical fallacy as a fait accomplis doesn’t wash. You see, even if you were right about obsolescence, the incident you cite doesn’t prove it. It’s a non sequitur. Hence your original point was utter bunk. For someone who claims to be bashing bogusmongers from behind the barbed wire, you’ve done a remarkable impression of a bogusmonger yourself with this one.
As I said earlier on, I wonder sometimes at the sheer misanthropy and arrogant “I’m all right Jack” attitude expressed by my fellow travellers.

It is very easy to sit astride one’s high horse and make declarations about how the little people – or cattle class – should be, what their choices should entail and decide that because we, in our superiority have made a choice, the proles should all do likewise.
There lies the road to totalitarianism and totalitarianism in the name of libertarianism is no less repugnant for that.
I think, on balance, I am probably not a libertarian at all.

‘Libertarianism’, as it seems to be represented across a large number of blogs, is a license to sneer at the sheep and cattle who ‘demand’ they have their backsides wiped by the state.

If I ever have to go to London, Manchester or Birmingham, I will avoid driving like the proverbial. No, it’s the train every time. Oh, yeah and contrary to the assumptions being made by Tim’s commenters, it’s not some great socialist conspiracy. It’s at times like this when I see such swivel eyed twaddle being peddled as libertarian thought that I start to wonder about my fellow travellers.

Good post, there are some very silly knee jerk prejudices amongst libertarians that can rival the left for daftness. Opposition to railways because they are somehow deemed socialist is one of them. I came across one of these half wits the other day who was ranting on about the noise of the wheels on the Bakerloo line being down to the tube and its staff being “communist”, I couldn’t be bothered to argue with him. “Swivel eyed” is a good description of this sort of thing and with Anna Racoon’s recent revelations about the Libertarian Party I’m glad I’ve never been tempted to join any of these fringe groupings who are, it seems, every bit as bonkers as the far left.

I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party despite being close friends with Chris Mounsey.
The incident I referred to directly illustrated one of the failings of railways and why they are obsolete, not a non sequitur at all. As to the rest these are your straw men you have erected to argue against.

Cost
While it amused me to see a suggestion that taxpayer’s money be used to subsidise taxi travel as a replacement option for rail, the blinkered “anything but this” option was apparent – despite logical arguments that proffered an explanation for the alternative being relevant and despite it being highlighted that cost is not something measured purely in monetary terms.
I value my time and the flexibility more than the monetary cost of the ticket. Just because something is expensive does not mean that it is not an appropriate option. It all depends on individual need and the value one places on such things as time. I’d have thought a libertarian would understand that principle.
His (Tim’s) argument is based upon cost and oddly for someone with his politics, CO2 emissions. As, like him, I am not a global warming worshipper, that argument fails.
… I am aware of the figures. I mentioned them in my post (and pointed out that there are caveats). Cost is not merely a monetary thing – unless you consider everything in life by the bottom line. If I want to travel to York from Bristol, for example, the train will get me there more quickly than the car – yes, it will, I’ve done it both ways and the train is way, way quicker. I can relax and work during that time if I so choose. I have to weigh up the cost in money against the saved time. I may decide that the time taken by road is too high a cost. I may decide that the stress of the drive is too high a cost. Consequently, producing raw monetary figures per passenger mile is meaningless. But I said that already – cost is not just about money. Tim is simply repeating his assertion in the hope that if he makes it often enough it will magically become true.
So, no, it didn’t and Tim has failed to provide any evidence that it did.
What Tim and his commenters have missed is that “cost” does not always apply to money. If I want to travel to Manchester, York or London I can do it more quickly by rail and if I want to can use the time to work. My time is worth more to me than the monetary cost of the ticket. It’s a simple enough economic equation, but there is a certain brand of vulgar libertarianism that sees everything in terms of monetary cost. These people seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Um, I didn't mention cost at all.
In a response I suggested people look at "the figures". I was assuming we were talking about safety, fuel efficiency etc.
(In a subsequent post responding I relayed an anecdote about cost to illustrate railways aren't necessarily cheaper, but this was in response to Mr Lonriders rant about costs. A rant against his own straw man again.
I use the readily available CO2 figures as a measure of fuel use and efficency not because it will kill the baby polar bears. To suggest baby polar bears won't die means we can ignore the benefits of fuel efficiency is bizarre. Whatever Mr Longrider does in the privacy of his own home is up to him but I can't afford to waste fuel for heating or transport.


Insults
The use of the term “cattle class” said much, very much, and it was not to the credit of the person who said it.
The Englishman made a sweeping assertion and tried to use a single incident to underpin it. The whole argument was bunk.
Tim’s argument started with a logical fallacy and went downhill from there.

I realise that Tim doesn’t like railways. He’s trotted out the canard that the steering wheel made them obsolete often enough for us to get the message. It didn’t.
When did joined up thinking become a lost art?

Suggestion – if you’ve got the time.
Go over to Tim’s site, and tell the rotating-heads there a few facts.
Could be fun - Comment by Greg Tingey

I'm not sure what the use of general slang says very much about - maybe Mr Longrider isn't used to actually using cattle class where it is the standard description used by the users.

Travel Time
Oh, please. My Satnav is similarly optimistic. I have never, ever made a journey to the time that either Google Maps or the Satnav predict. Real life in the form of rest stops and traffic congestion always gets in the way somewhere along the journey. I’m sorry, but if the strength of your argument lies in Google Maps and Transport Watch, you’d best retire with some dignity now.

Very hard to conduct an argument about how long journeys will take if we can't use any of the standard predictive tools. My guess is that Google Maps predictions are more accurate than railway timetables. They certainly are good enough for me to use for planning trips. But my original post didn't make any timing claims, what we have here is another straw man set up, knocked over by me and then withdrawn in a huff because it wasn't in the rules.


Choice
The claim that rail is obsolete just doesn’t stack up. Our system may not be an example of the best – Japan is an example of excellent practice – but it provides a choice for the traveller that is a viable alternative if you either cannot drive or don’t choose to. For me, the coach is not an option because, apart from the ticket price, it comes with all of the disadvantages of both rail and road and offers none of the advantages. For others, that ticket price will be what swings it. You see? Individual solutions for individual needs – libertarianism in practice.

Did I say I wanted to ban trains? I use obsolete technology all the time, my Lee Metford rifle was made obsolete by the introduction of cordite but I still use it and it works for me. My shotgun has hammers. My fountain pen is a bizarre affectation but I keep it to write letters of sympathy and congratulations. Even my email client only allows 80 characters to a line but it suits me. But I acknowledge they are obsolete choices I make.


Density
“Look at the photo above from Google of Paddington station and the A40 – which one is moving more people? Go and search the line, look at other stations, you will see the same thing – the tracks are nearly always empty because you can’t get the density of traffic onto rail that you can on road.”
Sigh, and I could take a photograph of the motorway system at a quiet time and that would prove nothing as well. And as for paving over Waterloo – well, more later on that one.

The photo shows two competing systems at the same time, if the motorway is quiet then I expect the railway will be even quieter. But as I invite go and find another example, there are lots in the UK where a railway and comparable road can be seen in an aerial shot. Count the number of people being moved on each. That is how arguments are conducted, look for the evidence and present it.

Central Control
Rail offers mass transit that bypasses the congested roads during peak times. If you prefer to sit watching the traffic lights change sequence on your way into London, be my guest. I prefer not to. And that is the crux – rail offers an alternative. It can do this because it uses discrete infrastructure controlled from a central location. The movements are time-tabled enabling a fairly dense traffic flow that keeps moving. With in-cab signalling, it will be possible to move more vehicles faster, so the technology is far from obsolete.

The London traffic lights, which are an infrastructure controlled from a central location, are proof that railways are better because they are an infrastructure controlled from central location. FAIL


Transport Watch
Tim’s reference to Transport Watch was enlightening. It is operated by a chap called Paul Withrington. Its funding is not immediately obvious. What is obvious is a clear bias in favour of road transport. As a source, it’s pretty toxic and not one to take seriously. This man thinks that it would be viable to pave over the rail infrastructure. As Thornavis points out in the previous discussion here, it just ain’t that simple. And, having done away with that central control of the vehicles, the unique method of mass transit will revert to the problems that currently exist on the crowded roads.
It’s also worth pointing out that Transport Watch is a highly biased source, so not really worth taking too much notice of. They advocate converting the railway to road in order improve journey times. Given that the rail has its own infrastructure independent of roads and vehicles are time-tabled and their journeys controlled by an outside system to keep them to time and separate from each other, they can reach three-figure speeds unobtainable with disparate vehicles on a crowded road system. It’s an absurd proposal that only the rabidly anti-rail lobby could come up with and is worthy only of ridicule. If this is the best they can do, I don’t recommend anyone take them too seriously.

I know nothing about Transport Watch - they are a convenient source of figures. Are those figures wrong, if so say so. If not where they come from is irrelevant.

Safety
Tim criticizes the safety costs on rail compared with roads. It’s not something that can be easily compared given the different systems, who controls the budgets and how the cost is decided, however, it is worth noting that death and injury on the roads passes daily without much comment.
Ther is a very good reason you are safer in a train than in your own home, and why 3000+ people are killed (never mind the injured and maimed) on the roads every year ….

Not easily compared, but at least I tried to. Again when the figures don't come up on the railways side the argument is dismissed with a superior wave of the hand.

The Disabled
The anti-railway enthusiasts seem to combine an I’m-alright-Jack attitude with I-know-best, like a delightfully arrogant nanny smacking down foolish sentimentalists. Well, that’s fine and dandy if you have the health to drive a car. It’s tough enough for this not-allowed-to-drive person to get where I need to be now. Take out the trains and then what? Tried travelling by coach in a wheelchair you can’t get out of (as I currently – hopefully not permanently – am)? Or does that disqualify me from being permitted to travel? Grrr! Woe betide such folk if they ever find themselves too disabled to drive.
But the thing that bugs me most about people like him? They always assume their abilities will remain the same, that they will continue to be ‘normal’. Newsflash – disability can happen to anyone.

This latter bit was from a commentator rather than Mr Longrider. Bluntly you know nothing about me or my family and the suggestion I don't know or care about the disabled is offensive. So you can fuck right off.

Efficency
As for more efficient – well if Tim likes being stuck in a tin box struggling through dense stop-start traffic, who am I to gainsay him? The reality is that for commuting into city centres, the train does so without being stuck in traffic going nowhere fast and the seating – while leaving something to be desired – is more spacious and comfortable than a coach. And on Intercity trains you can always get up and walk to the buffet car. Not sure I’d recommend the produce, mind…
While studies tend to indicate better passenger miles per gallon by road, it’s worth bearing in mind that these reports come with caveats. And efficiency is not just measured by passenger or tonnes per gallon. I’d rather drive on a motorway with fewer trucks playing leapfrog at 56mph – so the same freight travelling behind one train on the rail network suits me just fine.

Efficiency is not measured by efficiency but by however I choose to, can't argue with that, it is like arguing with a toddler over whose turn it is on the potty.


Just Better
the rail network offers an alternative to the road and flying for long distance travel and is far, far better for commuting into the traffic choked, clogged centres of modern conurbations

But why are they far, far better? Give us a clue as the argument you are using.

Security
And for a relaxing trip without the obsessive security theatre, the train takes some beating. Unless you take the Eurostar of course – in which case, the ferry avoids all the paranoia

Not a huge problem on the morning commute, or much to do with trains vs coaches.

You may remember my original claims:

Railways are obsolete because;
1. Trains cannot be steered around obstacles.
2. Alternatives are more fuel efficient.
3. Alternatives can carry more people per mile of track
4. Alternatives are more comfortable.
5. Implementing a diversion is easier on the road.

So far not one of those has been seriously argued against or disproved. And let me reiterate I have extracted all the argument I could find presented by Mr Longrider and if I have missed one please tell me and I will add it.
So five claims, no rebuttals - I think victory is mine.

But there is more, my main claim is that the inflexibility of tracked vehicles when faced with an obstruction is the main reason for their obsolescence. Proclaiming this benefit is turned into the sneerings of a homicidal maniac in Mr Longrider's strange world.
He doesn't actually dispute the fact so I think on this point my claim can be taken to be proven in this argument. But read on and enjoy a peep behind the veil.

Drive Round
I think the killer quote for me was Tim’s assertion that on the roads, a coach could just drive around the dead body. On the one hand this is staggering ignorance as we well know the police won’t let you just drive around. The only way that you would be able to drive around the obstruction is if you were first on the scene. What really reeks is the expectation that a driver would drive around someone lying in the road without stopping to investigate and call the emergency services. Why not go the whole hog and drive over them? That way we can be certain they are dead.
Much of my musings since then have been a recoil in horror at such naked misanthropy, arrogance, I’m-alright-Jackism and self-righteousness. But, Tim is not alone among those of us who would champion personal liberty when displaying such traits.
What happens when there is a road traffic incident on the motorway system? Yes, the police do exactly the same as they do with the rail system; shut the lot and to hell with the travelling public trying to get to their destination.
I was trying to put my finger on what it was that I found so repugnant about Tim’s comments. The idea that a coach driver would simply drive around a dead body and carry on is unbelievably cold blooded. And it’s that callous indifference; the price of everything and value of nothing mentality that irks. Quite apart from the sheer absurdity of plucking one case out of the ether and attempting to use it to prove a prejudice and assuming that bottom line is the only measure of efficiency.
Bollocks. What happens when there is a road traffic incident on the motorway system? Yes, the police do exactly the same as they do with the rail system; shut the lot and to hell with the travelling public trying to get to their destination. In times gone by, the local signalling inspector’s team would have moved the body, covered it up and waited for the coroner – meanwhile trains would be moving again fairly swiftly, even if only on one line with single line working in place.

So it was all right for trains to drive by a body when the local signallers had said so. But taking an over literal interpretation of my suggestion that cars and coaches can divert around problems makes me a blood sucking monster.

Once a railway man
It used to be relief signallers such as me who carried out handsigalling and pilotman duties.
Comment by Longrider — April 16, 2011 @ 22:06

And there I think we have it, a belief in the benefits of the central control of the travelling public, the belief that a signaller's say so turns the morbid into the practical, the unreasoned fury at any insult of the railway system. Once a railway man, always a railway man.

Comments

I like the double standards on show whereby the Transport Watch figures are "biased" and thus to be ignored while the man who clearly has ties to the rail industry is Mr Objective!

"I like the double standards on show whereby the Transport Watch figures are "biased" and thus to be ignored while the man who clearly has ties to the rail industry is Mr Objective!"

A frequent feature of modern thinking. A company spokesman (oh, sorry - "spokesperson") commenting on an industrial action is ipso facto biased; a union spokesperson is objective.


Tim, I don't think you and Longrider should be falling out over this or fall into the oneupmanship and gainsaying trap. Just agree to differ and have done with it.

Personally, I prefer to travel by car in the UK mainly because I like driving and I like to be coccooned in my own space. However, living in the High Peak, rail travel seldom is the more convenient or cheaper option but on the odd occasion I need to travel into Manchester City centre, I will use the train.

What really annoys me about rail travel is the overly complicated fare system, in particular the exorbitant "peak" travel fares. As far as I'm concerned this is nothing more than a tax on people going to work. Whenever I work on the continent, I use the train all the time because it is the cheaper and more convenient option and the ticket price is the same all day, every day.

Nice little straw man there. You can add it to the non sequitur and the tu quoque.

I have never made any secret about my ties to the rail industry, so there is no double standard. Just as I have never made any secret about my ties to road transport - having been a driving instructor and motorcycle instructor and take an active interest in all transport related activities. Mr Writhington is secretive about his provenance, so criticism is entirely justified. Where the figures come from is extremely relevant, I expected better from you than that.

My guess is that Google Maps predictions are more accurate than railway timetables.

Best belly laugh I've had for ages. Thanks for brightening my day ;)

"I like the double standards on show whereby the Transport Watch figures are "biased" and thus to be ignored while the man who clearly has ties to the rail industry is Mr Objective!"
- In this case, I suspect Longrider's accusation of 'biased' is simply code for 'disagrees with me'.

"I have never made any secret about my ties to the rail industry, so there is no double standard."
- Not once did I see a *reason* for why the figures from Transport Watch are not to be trusted. Remember, even if a person has ties to an industry (announced or not), the figures they present have not been shown to be incorrect until you demonstrate discrepancies. A person can be affiliated with something and still be correct. Until you actually find examples of unreliability, all you have is the assumption that they are wrong based purely on your different position.

This would seem blatant bias to me.

In this case, I suspect Longrider's accusation of 'biased' is simply code for 'disagrees with me'.

Not at all. His figures may be accurate - we don't know. What is evident from having trawled through the site is a clear bias in favour of road. He was asked about his funding yet remains coy about that. So, what we have is primarily a one man pressure group (yes, an oxymoron) who remains secretive about his backers. As any fule no, figures can be presented to make one's case with careful manipulation - therefore it is essential that such things as funding are out in the open. We can then make a judgement about any possible massaging. As it is, the refusal to be open speaks volumes. It is about as useful as a resource as Wikipedia.

Also, as I made clear during the course of the discussion, figures are only a part of the story. One of Tim's points was what does it do - given that it is expensive, (in his opinion) obsolete and apparently not "green"? I explained this in some detail. The central control aspect in this instance is a good thing, just as it is a good thing with flight. Rail provides the traveller with another choice. This, too, is a good thing. As has been pointed out several times, horses for courses.

I think you'll find that if a dead body were found on a road, it would be closed whilst the police conducted investigations into how the person died. It is quite likely therefore that a dead body on a road could result in the same kind of disruption as a dead body on a railway track. I seem to recall that a protestor on Tower Bridge caused several hours of traffic disruption in Central London a few years back. I suppose I could say I was surprised by the infantilism of this particle but I have read too much libertarianism on the web for that to be the case!

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