As part of my ongoing mission to replace myself with a robot intelligence, I’ve been playing with a new AI text generator. This one, called Grover, is designed to help readers detect fake news – but also has an option to generate it. Know your enemy, and so on.

It’s done a pretty good job at pretending to be me at Citymetric (article generated based solely on the metadata and title):

Why trains should be abolished

June 6, 2019 – John Band

The idea of trains and public transport gathering dust in some spare bedrooms is an unlikely one to fill the confines of a newspaper. But here we are. In case you haven’t heard by now, the future of London trains is up for grabs.

The plan to turn the Victorian Charing Cross and Liverpool Street tracks into Thameslink trains – featuring ever more electrified services and more seats – has been criticised heavily by campaigners as failing to consider alternatives, including a new Tube line to and from Heathrow Airport.

Of course, the devil is in the detail in the political debate. We won’t know the precise outline of the overhaul until after the cabinet announces its decision later this year. If the Tories grant government funding for the renewal of Thameslink, there are plenty of options to consider. But it wouldn’t be too sensible to short-change passenger comfort and safety, let alone discourage future generations from using trains.

So why not abolish train service altogether?

Osborne published a replacement transport plan in his 2015 manifesto. But it stopped short of calling for end to transport, or rail, as we know it, or replacing it with free, private buses. So there’s still a future for trains – provided they’re run by the private sector. But it’s no good relying on a privatised model – instead of avoiding a whole host of headaches, we need more innovative options to solve the underlying problems.

Capacity is the first hurdle. Today, many train journeys are overbooked. Many commuters are unaware of this inconvenient fact. The result is a backlog of people as their trains are packed at the station, making it hard to make changes when needed. Today’s trains feature tens of thousands of seats and could easily accommodate any additional need that arose.

Transport for London could make the commuter experience simpler and more accommodating by not just introducing more trains, but less overcrowding. But while inbound services are not overcrowded, outbound journeys are dreadfully noisy and overcrowded. Ailsa and Ravi did her six-mile journey from Hounslow to St Pancras and Waterloo in less than two hours. Add a rip-off four-minute one-way fare for a seat from Victoria, and the other eleven minutes or so of misery was the price that fans like them had to pay.

Today’s overcrowded outbound journey is partly the fault of trains. Heavy pressure to reduce journey times means many outbound trains start on time, but are rarely punctual in the end. Adding more trains should solve this – currently, there’s an overcapacity of 50,000 seats on seven stretches of track along the western side of the Thames. That’s a problem. But introducing trains may be just one solution.

Railways aren’t cheap – not even the most consumer-friendly London commuter will not have to pay, especially if the government continues to foot the bill. And that helps explain why they’re unlikely to be rolled out widely. Privatisation has been a hit, but Londoners aren’t rushing to get on board.

Public transport doesn’t have to be all lumpy, scarred clumps of empty seats – it should be a luxury that can make lives easier and more enjoyable.

John Band is a Founder and Director of Commuter Resistance

Well, the algorithm pretty much has me down. I guess it’s time to retire.

Image: Generated by John Band using DeepAI based on the keywords “lumpy, scarred clumps of empty seats”

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