When my grandson was four, I was able to take him across the road to Norwich rail station, and we could wander down the platforms and watch the trains.
If we felt like it, we could hop on a Bittern Line train to Sheringham, buy a ticket from the conductor and enjoy a few hours on the beach.
Since this is public transport, you might think that someone would be encouraging us to use it. So how has it improved?
It hasn’t. It’s much worse.
I can no longer take my grandson, who is now eight, on to the platforms to watch the trains, because electronic barriers have been erected to check our tickets. These frequently don’t work, and there is always a member of staff standing there – so the saving is not obvious. But they do effectively stop us watching the trains.
They also stop us hopping spontaneously on to a train, because now we have to buy a ticket first. Which means we have to queue up behind people who have long, complicated queries but still intend to travel today – and therefore we have to get to the ticket office very early and waste time.
As an added attraction, if you are in the station waiting for someone, you can’t use the toilets – because they are behind the barriers.
I wonder what the people behind all this would have done if they wanted to make us stop using the trains and get back into our cars.
Restricted access, part two
Thursday, 12 May 2011
After writing last time about the difficulty of getting access to the platforms on Norwich rail station, I have noticed that there are many areas I cannot access as easily as I could when I was young – or even middle-aged.
I used to be able to wander through the wonderful Norwich Cathedral easily: now I have to access it through the amusingly named Hostry, where I am invited to pay £5, and getting out at the other end is not always possible without detouring through the cloisters.
When I worked at the Eastern Daily Press it used to be possible on warm summer evenings to get out on to the roof and stroll from one side to the other. Health and safety has long since forbidden this, and security now prevents any kind of unauthorised strolling.
I used to be able to walk behind my house and through an alley into Thorpe Road – as did many other local residents – but this is now owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and two locked gates guard the way. Not too wild about that.
There are many roads in the city now closed to me when I am driving. I used to be able to drive from Eleanor Road through to Southwell Road in Norwich, until sheltered housing was plonked across the road. More recently I have been prevented from driving from Riverside Road over the river and up Bishop Bridge Road, and across the bridge from St Andrew’s Hall to the Playhouse.
There are other examples. I suspect that the horribly neglected building at the top of Mountergate – once a famous fish and chip shop – has been allowed to fester on and on because the scaffolding holding it “up” conveniently prevents motor vehicles getting into King Street.
Of course I realised that as I got older I would not be able to do what I used to do. But this wasn’t really what I had envisaged.