Sunday, June 22, 2008

Trans-Pennine ramble

When I lived in Huddersfield, I occasionally used to visit Manchester, which entailed catching a First Trans-Pennine Express train. There's a clue in the name there, but I never spotted it until my last (possibly last ever) visit to Huddersfield, when I actually travelled up via Manchester (instead of the more usual Wakefield or Leeds). I didn't consciously choose to, it's just the way the tickets came.

Now, I did remember that there's a long tunnel on this route, just outside Huddersfield. I remember in particular because one time the lights failed and we traversed the whole thing in pitch darkness. But last time, I happened to be looking out of the window as we approached, and saw a strangely familiar sight: a BW sign saying 'Standedge Tunnel: Diggle Portal' (no Andrew, it didn't have a colon in it; that's just a device for showing it was on a different line). And a canal, of course. Well, what my fellow passengers thought of me loudly going 'D'oh' and slapping my forehead, I can't say... but of course we were in the railway tunnel which runs parallell to, and is at various points linked with, the canal tunnel.

All my previous train crossings, of course, had been before we made the trip by boat, which might account for my never having made the connection. Even by train, it seemed a long way. I looked out to see if I could see anything, but the train was too well lit inside (this time) and moving too fast. We emerged at Marsden, and there were the tugs and the visitor centre (with a rather ominous 'To Let' sign on it).

I believe that one of the reasons that you're still not allowed to take your own boat through Standedge is that Railtrack object, on the grounds that you could hop off half way through and nip through one of the adits for a little light sabotage. That would seem to me to be an awfully roundabout way of going about things, not to mention slow on the getaway front, but who am I to argue with the counter-terrorism expertise of Railtrack.

Shall I digress? These days, it's suicide bombers we're meant to be trashed about, no? (as J.G. Ballard says in one of his dystopian epics (I don't think I shall be reading the others), people are at their most dangerous when they have nothing left to believe in except god). So why are we still getting our knickers in a twist about unattended luggage? The whole point of being a suicide bomber is that you don't need to leave your bomb unattended. In fact it would defeat the object rather if you did. By the same token, there is no justification for getting rid of litter bins. People just leave their litter neatly stacked somewhere, we're used to seeing that, so that's where you could leave your bomb, if it was of the unattended type. The fact that we now have nowhere proper to put our litter, meaning that a whole generation of children has missed out on the Keep Britain Tidy message that made such an impression on me in the 1970s and now think it's OK to drop stuff where they stand, is the terrorists' first and greatest victory.

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