Safer by Train


There was a most interesting story on the BBC news website. You can catch it, here

Basically, 300 people died, last year, on the British railway network. But, they had to climb over  a fence, or throw themselves in front of the train, to do so. This was a tragic record for modern times.

The story also stated that

…it is important to remember that the train is still the safest way to travel on land. Moreover, all of this (300 deaths) sits against a whopping increase in the number of people actually catching a train, with journeys up 53% in a decade.

There were no passenger or workforce deaths as a result of a train actually crashing. In fact, not one passenger train came off the rails over the past year, which is the first time that has happened for two decades.

I am old enough to remember that working on the railways was so dangerous, that the railways were obliged to provide orphanages for the destitute children of their employees. We now know that, whatever the best intentions of these institutions, they quickly became a sanctuary for bullies and child abusers…so, we should be grateful that we no longer require these places.

My own father was taken away from his destitute mother when his father was killed in a workplace accident in 1936/7. Luckily for him, and whatever the exact circumstances of his being in care, the school recognised him as a kind of genius… He won scholarships to Radley School and, thence, to Cambridge University. I know he never forgot that this amazing personal trajectory was born of family tragedy. He never spoke about it.


I can remember the Southern Railway Orphange, near Woking, Surrey. Weirdly, the railway ran right past it as a constant reminder, to the orphans, of why they were there! That’s a finely nuanced kind of psychological brutality to add to the mix of abuse and bullying…still, as Nietzsche said, what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger!

You can watch a clip of Pathe newsreel film about the Orphans. It’s online. And, there are endless clips of people doing silly things near the railway line or on a level crossing. A train is a big machine going fast; it always wins.

It’s not surprising, in these circumstances, that I am a great champion of the promotion of  health and safety. I consider the provision of a safe working and leisure environment, one of the great achievements of 20C Britain. I commend all those who have worked towards this.


I should say that I have no specific evidence of child abuse or bullying at the Woking Orphanage. I am simply making a general point about the nature of these institutions in the light of what we now know, post Jimmy Savile etc etc.

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