OPINION - The Standard View: This strike may mean we give up on rail

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

THERE is often a slow start to the New Year, but 2023 has kicked off with an eerie quietness in much of the city which is entirely attributable to the train strikes. All over the commuter belt and parts of outer London — anywhere where getting to work means getting a train — people are deciding that they may as well stay at home. And as a week of strikes continues, many people are now wondering whether they should give up on a means of transport which is so reliably unreliable and either work from home, as in the pandemic, or take jobs within easier reach. London cannot take another year of this perpetual disruption. Every business, every sector, is affected: theatres and restaurants as well as shops and services.

Members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train operators will stage two 48-hour walkouts from Tuesday and Friday, while Aslef drivers will strike on Thursday. This amounts to an unwanted week out of the office for many of us. For a man as calculating as Mick Lynch, leader of the RMT, the prospect of losing passengers — no matter how effective for this strike — is not good news. If fewer people travel by train, revenues decline. Then the pressure to adopt cost-saving measures such as service cuts and ticket office closures will be impossible to resist.

The good news is that Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, has said that a deal is within touching distance. He feels the RMT’s consultation with its members was rushed and that if members had the opportunity to consider all elements of the deal, they would accept it. The Government must also tone down its combative rhetoric and do far more to end the dispute. That’s what we must all hope. We can’t go on like this.

Sir Mark’s new year

Few of us have New Year’s resolutions with quite such far-reaching consequences as those of Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley. He has rightly begun the year with the intention of targeting the 1,000 most dangerous predatory men in London to stop them committing crimes against women and children. He says he wants to use “the best science available” to identify and pursue “the top 100 and the top 1,000” dangerous men and deal with them. It may mean prosecuting them for minor offences; the important thing is that they are stopped from doing harm. This “proactive protection” of women is the great prize.

Of course there are other priorities, not least a reduction in the tragic toll of teenage knife crime, which reached shocking levels in recent years. This year will be Sir Mark’s first full year in the job, when we shall no longer be blaming his predecessors for the failings of the force: he will be responsible for putting things right.

Wish you were there?

Rain, no trains, crisis in the hospitals, a blizzard of bills for the Christmas presents. So far 2023 has got off to an unpromising start. But we mustn’t grumble. Celebrities are doing their bit to lift the national mood by issuing pictures of themselves visiting impossibly glamorous holiday destinations: the Beckhams (Junior) and Selena Gomez as well as the Biebers are in warm or snowy places having a lovely time. That makes us feel all much better, thank you. If there’s one thing to cheer us up, it’s knowing they’re just fine.