Sign of the Times ?

This was the sight that greeted me a couple of weeks back at Manchester airport after returning from a week in Rome spent with my italian partner, which prompted me to take a snap, given the implication and the imminent prospect of being surrounded by brexit-argument again after a welcome break on ‘the continent’  –  where it’s most definitely NOT the no.1 topic of after-dinner conversation.

Now what the hell is THAT !

Apparently a major UK airport, that is to say an organisation that should know BETTER than the general mass of the British public what the international legalities are, thinks it is OK and logical to have a large sign making out that UK passport holders are NOT by definition the same as EU passport holders.

Even though they are.

One is a sub-set of the other, but in that case why not also add  ‘& Eire’ to the text above. It would make as much sense and serve as much ( superfluous ) purpose. But of course they don’t put that as well because it WOULD defeat the real purpose of this over-lettering….

Now i could suggest the ‘charitable’ interpretation of this, which is that the powers-that-be at the airport in question* have helpfully provided a sign written in this manner so as not to confuse all those returning Brits who might have no idea they are holding an EU passport…..

The problem with that theory is that it clashes with one of the popular ‘themes’ associated with Brexit; the one to ‘get our Blue passports back’…

…. which would suggest that the very people you’d think wouldn’t have a clue about the rules of paperwork at borders when returning to the UK at passport-control, are only too aware that they are holding the despised little red ‘European’ passports.

So this notice can’t be for THEIR benefit, can it ?

And it can’t be for the ‘remainers’ coming back from hols or business trips or euro-family visits, because they are surely, by definition, well aware that they are ‘EU passport holders’ and indeed probably also proud of that fact.

So for whose benefit is this specific wording there for ?


1)   to passive-aggressively declare to citizens with passports issued in the other 27 countries of the EU that UK passports are still ‘better’, even though they are the same size, shape, colour and internal layout

2)   to make returning Brits feel ‘better’ about the fact they’re returning to the land of rainy sundays, chips with everything, binge-drinking on high streets, total idiots as cabinet ministers, etc.,


Ah, but the UK isn’t in Schengen you’re thinking.

Yes, but since that means everyone with an EU passport has to present it ( and not just an ID card ) at a UK border anyway, UK passport holders don’t have a different type of check, so that doesn’t explain or justify the wording at all.

A UK passport isn’t a whole a different category of passport to any other EU one, for the purposes of passport control.

I mean if it was, or they wanted to properly make it seem as if it was, why not create a seperate line for UK passports only ?

Answer, because that would be more expensive in equipment and require more staff…..

And we couldn’t have our crap-patriotic little fetishes actually cost us more money could we ? – a theme running right through brexit and the causes of brexit.

Supposed proud nationalists, who nonetheless baulk at any commitment to spend money on more ‘effectively’  waving their metaphorical flag to the captive audience at an airport, and patronising Johnny foreigner.the moment he arrives…

The thing is there’s no private-sector ‘business case’ for ‘official jingoism’, but as you see from the picture there’s just a little state money available for half-hearted symbolic gestures, in the form of ‘official’ notices making a visual point that not only doesn’t need to be made but is factually ignorant.

And in case you think i’m ranting about something unimportant and insignificant here, the next time you’re travelling TO any of the rest of the EU, note what the signs say at their incoming passport control gates….



*  i have a clear recollection of the same wording at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, for starters

Cross ?, the north should be fuming !


A little out of date now that item, but i’ll update the post with my own angle to this..

A lot of words have been said over the past couple of years about ‘Northern’ rail projects, when what is meant by this, as in also ‘Northen Powerhouse’ *, is what i would call the Northern ‘belt’ across England centred roughly on a line from the Mersey to Humber estuaries…

So once again, as as has been the case for years when ‘southerners’ talk about ‘the North’ , they essentially mean Lancashire and Yorkshire, indisputably the biggest previous ‘powerhouse’ of industrial England, which has undoubtedly suffered from the decline in ‘tradtional’ industries ( whatever caused that ), but nevertheless this ‘belt’ across England is a large area which has not yet suffered the additional indignity – on top of industrial decline – of being forgotten, or at least left out of national political discourse ( or what passes for it right now )

Which is what the North-East of England has been subjected to over the years that i’ve lived there, including being mentioned as a minor afterthought in recent talk of any ‘northern’ rail projects.

When is the North-East of England going to have Trains properly going AROUND and across it, instead of mainly just through it on a North-South axis ?


The Foment of the Moment

Well, here we are, as a not-side-effect of the not-so-unexpected GE, and despite the chaos and ineptitude of Brexit hogging all the attention ( at least of the UK media, the rest of the world is yawning about it most days now )  with Britains Railways finally back in the ‘top 10’ of rolling political stories…

…and  for a reason other than strikes, delays or landslips. Thus putting a long overdue spotlight on the overall question of how the railways should be run per se.

Now i’m hoping the discussion doesn’t stay as ‘just’ the supposed hot-potato of the by now well-worn and vehemently argued Nationalisation arguments, but gets taken well into the territory of transport and infrastructure policy overall in the UK.

For instance, to throw just a few questions into the ring, for starters;  ( this will run and run…)

1. Why – in all the argument about TOCs and NR so far – is there no mention of the freight franchises ?

Are these actually secondary in revenue to passenger services nowadays, or is this vital transport element of the UK not considered worthy of ‘strategic’ thinking at the same time as the more publicly ‘felt’ side of rail ?

2. Have any of the main political parties engaged at all with any of the various single-issue campaigns for rail re-openings ?

And if so why have we not heard any call for a co-ordinated and thought-through assessment of re-opening options that would consider the benefits to the whole network of each, and not, as present, all of these proposals being considered in isolation and ‘promoted’ by local and regional authorities ?

3. Even if (re)Nationalisation in some form or at some level went ahead in the next few years, is it not ironic that ‘New-BR’ or whatever it got called, would suffer a case of history partially repeating itself, as well as some irony, in that it would be ‘inheriting’ a lot of old stock, just as ‘Original-BR’ did in 1948, and which much of in the present case is well over 20 years old and so in fact was made for and often BY the ‘original’ BR anyway ?

Would provision be made in any NATIONAL plan for the long-overdue CENTRAL programme of stock replenishment that is needed, as opposed to the current fragmented and self-interested ( and show-off ) purchases of a passenger sets at for specific routes or areas by the TOCs ?

4. and…. although not exactly a key aspect that active railway observers can have missed before now, the question of where and by who the large ammount of stock will be manufactured is, perhaps, the biggest hot-potato within the overall political hot-potato, that the Public at large haven’t really started to talk about……

One truth seems to me that while a majority of the public want the franchise mess to be cleared up – as they can see it doesn’t work from their own experience and wallet-lightening – nevertheless by and large they still view the railway system as very much a ‘mystery’ that only ‘experts’ or nerds know anything in detail about.

Something that, for all the cuts of the past 55 years, is a familiar ‘presence’ in peoples working lives or leisure time, as well as part the landscape and urban environment itself….  but is to them at one and the same time both;

a) A thing they perceive in ‘historical’ terms; already there since long before they were born..


b) ….something very new that they are suspicious of the future-use arguments for….

I think my point, to start as i mean to go on here on this site, is that reducing the many problems AND potential strengths of Britains Railways down to a single ‘binary’ issue of re-nationalisation is just as much a case of missing both the detail and the wider picture as a certain ‘simplification’ to a yes or no answer last June was.

To be continued…..