Some time in the next few months, 17 new unmanned trains will turn up to work the Glasgow Subway. This leaves 41 existing coaches – power cars and trailers – dating from 1980-99 to do nothing. True, they're built to the rare gauge of four feet, but they haven't taken anything like the battering of their predecessors, which lasted in service from 1896 to 1935 as cablecars, and from then until 1985 as electrics. Are they to be cut up?
Or might they have a future as St Andrews' possible answer to 'The Dinky' at Princeton, New Jersey, which sweetly shuttles between the heart of the University of Woodrow Wilson and the town's main line Amtrak station on the New York-Washington line? A St Andrews-Leuchars shuttle would be even more intensively used, as Fife Council hopes to build the new Madras Academy on the site of the old railway goods yard, and then there's the countervailing attraction of the Dundee mecca to be thought about.
But at the moment the Magoos of Glenrothes want 'mair buses'. Big deal.
My time as an MSP in the Kingdom was occupied by leisurely discussions with bureaucrats which always ended at The Stop. Enough of this! In Baden-Wuerttemberg we get the future to work ASAP. Which is why we have 36% of our GDP in manufacture, against 11% in the UK.
What's needed is to keep road traffic in general away from St Andrews' town centre, as is the case in Princeton, and the traffic density from Leuchars should be sufficient to keep the little trains running through the day filled with schoolkids, tourists (from and to Dundee, the Old Course and the other hotels), golfers and anyone else you like.
Wrong gauge? Not a problem. The Edinburgh tram is standard-gauge but has always been stand-alone – so what's wrong with the Glasgow Gauge? Trains fill up more efficiently than buses and are more glamorous anyhow.
The prototype should be airport shuttles of the Stansted or Heathrow Terminal 5 type rather than anything conventional operating in Scotland. Here in Baden-Wuerttemberg, we're clever at this sort of thing, and a brief shuttle-line is often preferred to a network branch as it's obvious and recognisible – as long as it provides plenty of passenger space at either end. A scheme of the Green-Black government will probably go ahead to reopen mothballed country branches. Sensible schoolkids/students travel on seasons which – as in Tuebingen – are randomly checked. Tourists can – we trust – get a ticket from their tourist tax, that overdue innovation.
Who pays? Oh yes! Time to soak – and even better scrap – the SUVs. 'Bankers' Tanks' are beyond comic. Three of the brutes add up to the road space filled by a bus, and they seem the favoured conveyance of known malefactors of great wealth, in intimate conversations with their chums in the Caymans. Enough said. I'd like to see them scrapped, but for a start they ought to pay for the messed-up road verges, the potholes that face elderly cyclists like moi
, and the small town shopkeepers who have had to pay for the misdeeds of the financial sector.
The other day Sajid Javid took a break from bumming about having gone to a state school and said he had a fantastic relationship with Boris Johnson. This, mark you, despite my criticism in Scottish Review
of the British characteristic of overstatement and the indiscriminate use of intensifiers. Does this man not read? Did his state school not teach him how to?
It does matter a lot how we disengage from Europe. We have done enough to keep likely the peace of 50 years. But have we done what we should have done? To create the future? The future will be different. Very different. Uncertain in ways unknowable. As I am now slightly over 20, the creation of this future lies with others. They must be free to do so. What future? Perhaps one in which art, science, theatre and dance have new engagements. New creativity to save our humanity. The earth will continue on. We may not.
Our current political and other institutions seem ill-prepared. I regret the no deal option. I hope my MP and my several MSPs will do their best to secure, if we must separate from Europe, the best deal.
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