You know when it all went wrong for The Tube? 1933. The year the government expropriated (forcefully took ownership of via The London Passenger Transport Act) the existing train, tram, trollybus and bus services infrastructure – in order to ‘co-ordinate’ it. This infrastructure had been constructed by visionary and pioneering private individuals who provided crowded Londoners with an extraordinary solution – the world’s first underground railway.
The very concept of The Tube once symbolised progress, freedom, innovation and the belief that as a society we could achieve anything as long as we allowed each other the freedom to act upon our vision. Eighty One years later and The Tube now represents the antithesis of liberty and progress. It represents monopoly, unjust privilege (unions), lack of choice and price gouging. It’s become utterly detached from its original reason for being, which was to be exactly what its customers wanted, and as a result has become ossified and extortionately expensive. It now primarily serves as a means to an end for politicians and unions pursuing their own immediate interests.
The Tube was a beautiful swan born out of liberty, but became an ugly ducking of central planning.
We’ll never know how cheap, expansive, competitive and innovative underground (and overground) transport could have become in London. But we can imagine. We can picture the unseen. And it’s this vision of what could have been and what could be, the same kind of vision that 81 years ago drove a few exceptional individuals to risk everything in order to bring it life, that we must keep in mind whenever we see or hear Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London) and his kind; the kind who take control by force because they believe they know what’s best. But the question is never: what is best? but: who gets to decide? For cars, clothes, computers, it’s the customer who calls all the shots and makes or breaks any given product or service. For transport it’s a few men in office. Look at the results. The former have got cheaper and greatly increased in quality. The latter…well…it needn’t be said.