The Plastic Hippo

May 20, 2016

Close but no cigar

Filed under: Birmingham,Media,Politics,Transport,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 2:06 am
Tags: , , ,
First class

First class

Being blessed with merciful anonymity, the little town of Walsall seldom attracts either wanted or unwanted attention. The diurnal 15 mile tailback at Junction 10 might excite the traffic reporter at a ghastly local radio station and the occasional nail bomb lobbed at a Mosque by some deranged Eastern European neo-fascist certainly raised a few eyebrows but, in terms of global influence, Walsall is generally happy with inept local politics, average football and a minimal media profile. There are, however, certain moments when the planets align resulting in an event horizon that places Walsall at the epicentre of galactic flux.

The first clue that the space/time continuum was being perceptively bent came at the dreadful Birmingham New Street Station during a Thursday tea-time commute. There was something very, very wrong with the Walsall train. For a kick off it did not look like the usual Walsall train; it was new and it was clean. Not only was it new, it had large LED signs on the windows proclaiming “Walsall”. Not only was it clean, it was gleaming and in the middle, like an Arthur C Clarke monolith unseen for centuries, was a first class carriage. I checked with the guard to confirm that this transport of delight was indeed bound for Walsall.

It departed on time and crystal clear automated announcements welcomed us to each station stop. Teams of uniformed operatives patrolled the train with rubbish sacks collecting discarded dandruff from seat headrests and a friendly guard gently but firmly reminded us that the first class carriage was reserved for customers with first class tickets. The train arrived on time and ran with an efficiency more usually associated with transport systems on mainland Europe even if the first class carriage remained stubbornly empty. London Midland, clearly recognising the significance of Walsall`s historic date with destiny, stepped up to the plate and provided luxurious rail travel not seen since the glory days of the Flying Scotsman and the Coronation Scot.

Intrepid football fans travelling from Barnsley to the Bescot stadium for the League One playoff will no doubt be grateful if a little surprised at such high standards of customer care and will return to Yorkshire thrilled by the experience that will remain in the memory far longer than the less serious matter of a six-one aggregate win over Walsall. Football can be a cruel game and after an excellent season playing excellent football, Walsall blew it over the two playoff games. Only a point away from automatic promotion, it is difficult to explain the collapse. A good goal from Jordan Cook offered some consolation to a heartbreaking campaign but the final say went to Barnsley and goal scored by a bloke called, ironically, Brownhill.

On the short journey between New Street and Walsall, three football stadia can be seen from the train. Birmingham City continue to languish in mid-table Championship obscurity, Aston Villa are relegated to join the Blues and Walsall failed to meet Villa halfway. Next season, Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night on the train will be potentially less fraught.

Given that London Midland generally holds the travelling public in indifferent contempt, it is completely ridiculous to suggest that they should provide an upgraded service for football fans. The gleaming, state of the art and sumptuous rolling stock was laid on for a much smaller, more exclusive clientele. BBC Question Time descended upon Walsall for the first time and as a complete surprise to precisely nobody at all descended into the pit of obfuscation, lies, distraction, personal attacks and shouting that is now the level of political debate in the United Kingdom.

On the off chance that one of the panellists or the chairperson would wish to travel from London on the train, then the reality of New Street to Walsall must include first class, clean, on time traction units. Mind the gap and make sure you take your belongings with you when you leave the train. We may never know but it is likely that the panellists and chairperson took the BBC driver option and came by fleet cars which in terms of value for money, is cheaper for licence fee payers than the cost of an extremely rare first class ticket from New Street to Park Street.

The programme did not disappoint. Seconds in and we were informed that it is racist to call a horrible racist a horrible racist. Britain, it seems, is full. Murderers are being given I-pads and immigrants want to kill the rest of us. Simultaneously, a horrible racist is not a horrible racist because he was referring to Polish people generally and not specifically, Britain can only survive with immigration, some crimes require an I-pad and immigrants pay billions in tax. The Town Hall looked lovely.

Walsall FC might not get a better chance at promotion and BBC Question Time might not return to Walsall. Now that the circus has left town, the Friday commute will return to shabby, delayed or cancelled trains, waiting for a mechanic at Bescot to fix something or waiting at New Street for train crew. But at least London Midland made an effort.

Close but no cigar.


  1. It was indeed a miserable programme.

    The usual shot of ex Councillor Peter Smith gurning from the central stalls was sadly missing.

    So was any sensible discussion on matters affecting the Borough and its residents.

    Although the Town Hall looked splendid, the last serious paint job was back in the 80s. It was properly rendered, plastered and fixed.

    Much like the audience.

    Comment by The Realist — May 20, 2016 @ 11:01 am | Reply

  2. And I missed all this excitement in my haven up the Birchills…

    Comment by Keith Povall — May 20, 2016 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  3. Trains (Class 350s) with first Class accommodation are used regulary on the Walsall service.

    Comment by Tony Martin — May 22, 2016 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  4. COMMENT REMOVED This irrelevant racist nonsense has been removed by the plastic hippo.

    Comment by Rob — May 23, 2016 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  5. COMMENT REMOVED by the plastic hippo. This blog will remove any incitement to racial hatred.

    Comment by Rob — May 29, 2016 @ 11:50 am | Reply

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