There was general upset earlier this year when TFL revealed that the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road station would lead to the removal of portions of Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 mosaics. The 20th-Century Society called – again – for a register of public art and bemoaned English Heritage’s failure to list them (as they had the water fountains at the station, also removed). Most of the murals, TFL says 95 per cent, remain in situ and are being restored, but the arches at the top of the escalators, which made going underground look like descending into Ali Baba’s futurist cave, are gone.
In mid-March, on the weekend that France played Ireland at the Stade de France (the reason I was in Paris), the city authorities made public transport free. This was because of the air pollution, which was bad despite the skies that were clear and blue. The mayor had hoped that Parisians would give up on their cars and travel instead by Metro, tram or bus. I don't know Paris well enough to guess whether there were fewer cars that weekend or not, but the streets on those ideal spring days didn't seem any less packed with traffic. Still, there's nothing like the idea of free transport – the thought you could go anywhere, despite there being people to see, and places to be, such as the Stade de France at five. You wonder what would happen were Boris Johnson to consider the same thing, what with the London air, like the air over much of Southern England today, spiked with Saharan dust.
The Interactive Emergency Evacuation Exhibition Center in Taiwan is one of the world’s odder transport museums. The Tapei Metro System (MRT), according to its official literature, aims to go ‘beyond its role as a mere transportation mode by also transporting passengers to a beautiful new world’. The IEEEC, however, transports you to a world where everything has gone wrong. It’s aimed at children. Large wall displays in the foyer show the layout of the centre, the range of souvenirs on offer, and a cartoon child fleeing the Grim Reaper: ‘Knowledge is the key to survival!’
I’ve just heard this from a colleague. He’s been told by one of the managers that as part of the modernisation programme we're all going to get new electric trolleys. I wish you could hear the sounds of scornful laughter coming out of all the delivery offices up and down the country. Electric trolleys no less! It’s a hoot. How much are they planning to spend on that, I wonder? How many new mechanics are they going to take on for when they – inevitably – break down? Me, I like my bike. It’s simple and it’s efficient, it’s robust and old-fashioned, it keeps me fit, and Tom – the bike mechanic – does a great job of keeping it in good condition. So who takes all the profit for all the new electric trolleys they’re going to foist on us, regardless of whether we want them or not? Not the Royal Mail, that’s for certain. Now can you see where all the profits are disappearing to?