Sweden Vs England – Public Transport Verdict
On a recent trip to Sweden I used planes, trains, buses, trams and ferries. Let me give you a quick summary of their advantages:
- All ran on time.
- All had a wifi system we could join, most of which were free. (I’m writing this in the Eurostar terminal where there is no free wifi).
- All had USB charging points on the vehicle or boat – also at most of the stops.
- All were clean.
- There were not endless announcements.
- There were very few delays and those that happened were explained in Swedish and English in an unpatronizing fashion.
- The crowded trams, of which there were quite a few were always followed up by – another tram – so you knew you’d get here you wanted to go – they anticipated increased demand.
- The archipelagos off of Gothenburg and Stockholm are simply stunning and idyllic – and once you had your transport pass for Gothenberg, the islands were entirely free to explore.
- The buses ran very late (2 am?) meaning no late night taxis.
- The helpful, positive and friendly staff who seem to speak all languages.
- The efficiency meant I could trust my sons to use the transport system, such was its simplicity, something I’d never say about London.
As well as these advantages the city of Gothenburg staged a football tournament for 50,000 boys and girls on hundreds of pitches, utilising their excellent transport so that everyone got to where they needed to go quickly and on time – again, we could never stage an event like this in the UK – no city could deliver this event without massive investment.
On recent trips in the UK, especially on trains, the disadvantages have been numerous and as I write this, increasingly offensive:
- Many, many, late or cancelled trains.
- Pay for the wifi or go without – or have a free voucher that may not work.
- Announcing to the train that first class passengers getting drinks and refreshment when 2 previous trains were cancelled meaning the train was too crowded to get to the buffet car, and all standard passengers were left to share any water on them to survive the high temperatures.
- Unwashed tables.
- Unwashed chairs.
- Toilets that stink and have done for years.
- The patronising message in the loos about ‘your ex’s sweater’ – please!
- The patronising message about ‘apologise for any inconvenience.’
- Plug sockets with no power.
- Waiting rooms at international terminals with no complementary wifi.
- The card machine not working in the buffet car.
- No cash in the buffet car or change.
- No air-con in a carriage on the hottest day.
- Random pauses in your journey with no explanation.
- The solemn faces of the guards as they watch you struggle to get your ticket into the guillotine gate at the end of the platform.
- The belief, sure and certain, that you are being hugely ripped off and that no improvement will ever make this right, ever.
- The need to emigrate to another country where they make this all look easy.
- The understanding that the irony of this is now so unfunny.
- Having to sit on a dirty floor in a corridor for 2 hours.
- Watching babies screaming because they’re hot and tired and hungry and knowing exactly how they feel.
What does the UK think its transport policy is? Is there a policy or a series of managed disasters?
The time has come for someone with some vision to invest in something that should offer advantages to everyone, and get us out of this mess.