Sunday 27 July 2003

Joined up government

Thanks to Dave Fordwych for alerting me to this one

The Sunday Herald has a wonderful story today:

Transport police were called out last Friday to confront a small but angry band of residents as they marched down a path to the Perth-to-Dundee railway line and a level crossing which has been padlocked and nailed shut.

This is the apparently innocuous focus of a chain of events that has polarised the local community, angered the council, incensed the Ramblers’ Association, raised the spectre of corporate man slaughter and left a question mark hanging over an unforeseen consequence of the Land Reform Bill.

Directors of Network Rail are understandably concerned about the possibility of facing charges of corporate manslaughter in the event of someone being killed or injured while wandering on the railway. Meanwhile, the Scottish government has legislated in favour of a right to trespass roam, including, presumably, across railway tracks.

The railway infrastructure has been taken out of the hands of shareholders and into the safekeeping of selfless (sic) public servants. Surely this kind of mix-up shouldn't occur. Don't tell me that there's something wrong with socialism! In the meantime the local council is forcing open the gates over the tracks and Network Rail is locking them up again.

The folk at Network Rail are - wisely - looking out for number one:

“If people are serious about crossing live railways, the safest way is by underpass or bridge and somebody has to fund that – and it’s not going to be the railway because it’s not our responsibility. The responsibility must either rest with councils or central government.”

As Dave Fordwych says:

In my opinion, both pieces of legislation -right to roam and corporate manslaughter -are wrong headed and superfluous and it will be interesting to see which way this one pans out.
I think that a solution may be found if the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, has a quiet word with the Secretary of State for Scotland who is, er, Alistair Darling.

Funnily enough, the only time I have ever seen Mr Darling, my own MP, was on an aeroplane flying from London to Edinburgh and, yes, he was talking to himself.