Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The present that Cameron can bring London from India

Cameron has gone back to the '50s with his old-school trade delegation to India; it's an old plan, but it may just work. India has about the largest and fastest growing middle-class in the world. Currently they're showing their sophistication by stocking Johnny Walker Very Old Bombay Malt Whisky on the shelves of their newly-built warehouse apartments, watching Friends on DVD and experimenting with Burberry check sari fabric, but soon the most sophisticated will want the real thing rather than locally made 'snides'. All the British firms currently taking out full-colour full-page ads in 'Country Life' and 'Horse and Hounds' could do worse than open up niche stores in Linking Road.

But it's what the Indians can do for us that really interests me. Anyone who has watched BBC4's 'Monsoon Railways' will soon realise that India is the sole repository of all the knowledge that enabled the UK to run it's rail system so effectively in the 1890s. The original electro-mechanical signal and control systems are still in place and working perfectly, the staff are happy in their complex hierarchies and loyal to their employer, engineering and maintenance staff are highly safety-conscious and display craft skills and a level of ingenuity long lost to the UK.

Passengers are still called passengers on the Indian Railways, and are served by porters, bearers and chai wallers attending to their every comfort. Stations are still provided with 'retiring rooms', temporary bedrooms, many now with AC, that can be hired for 24 hours whilst awaiting an obscure branch line connection. What's more, they've avoided the curse of the 'Human Resources' department, retaining a Personnel Department. The most recent vacancies circular specifies for a candidate that "APPLICANT SHOULD BE CONVERSANT IN PERSONNEL, ESTABLISHMENT MATTERS, HANDLING STATUTORY LAWS, GRIEVANCE HANDLING, STAFF WELFARE, RAJBHASHA & COMPUTER WORKING".

In fact, Indian Rail epitomises exactly how a railway should be run.

So I can think of no greater benefit for London than sacking Metronet, tearing up the PFI, booting out Bob Crow and his antediluvian members and bringing in Indian Rail in its entirety to run the Tube. They'd be perfect. And as for Rajbhasha, the slow conversion of the official language of the railways from English to Hindi, well, I'm sure we'll get used to it.


rvi said...

Good idea! I have always wanted to travel on the roof of a rail carriage.

Blue Eyes said...

I think the tube "PPP" is now dead, Boris having bought the maintenance company that didn't go bust. Seven steps back, one step forward.