Tuesday, 6 February 2007

A campaign for every reader

The London Evening Standard is one of the most abominable newspapers. Over the past few years its whole purpose seems to have been transformed from a vehicle to transmit news to one of running badly informed ‘campaigns’.

The latest issue to be picked up by the Standard is the ‘a seat for every commuter’ campaign which arose out of the timetable and capacity problems on the First Great Western network. This largely consists of anecdotal evidence and tedious discussions of commuters’ journeys into work. What’s missing from the campaign – indeed what is missing from most of the Standard’s campaigns – is a balanced intellectual argument: why, for example, does overcrowding exists on trains, what sensible policies might be enacted to solve it and, indeed, an analysis of whether it is a problem that is immediately soluble.

Such a considered approach is important. Problems with the rail network will not be solved by spurious newspaper campaigns. Nor will they be solved by customers simply demanding things to get better. If we are to find sustainable, long term solutions there needs to be an informed debate – a debate our politicians seem incapable of initiating. We need, at a most fundamental level, to decide what type of rail system we want and then have to find the most sensible way of brining this about.

The Standard’s campaign does nothing to achieve these aims and, as such, it’s little more than a squandered opportunity.

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