Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Wrong Side of the Tracks

It's about midday and I'm at Stockport station, waiting for a train to Macclesfield.

Sometime in the recent past the station has gained an extra platform. Its roof is shiny and metallic, and supported by spotless white pillars.

The old platforms have corrugated plastic rooves, transparent apart from a layer of dirt, and have a mess of cables strung along underneath them. Their pillars are painted in peeling red and grey.

The old platforms are numbered One to Four, and it would be reasonable to expect that the new addition would be Platform Five. But unfortunately it is at the wrong end of the station, adjacent to Platform One, and has therefore had to be called Platform Zero.

Even though the new platform represents an investment in public transport, intended to benefit everyone equally, it's hard not to look across at it from grimy old Platform One without instinctively feeling that there is something elitist about it, akin to the difference between first class and standard, and hard therefore not to look at the signs hanging down from its shiny roof, with big zeros painted on them, without thinking that there is something just a little bit funny about it.

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