Ministers were quick this morning to play down fears of a punctual transport system after the official level of threat was raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’, saying the situation was far from critical and that people should go about their business as normal. Despite the danger of arriving early, travellers were advised to continue catching an earlier train or flight ‘just in case’ until further notice.
The alert was raised when commuters on the 7:17 from Basingstoke to Waterloo realised the train had left on time for two days running. Dave Sanders, 35, said the development was worrying. ‘If this continues, I’ll have to start catching the 7:29 in order to be at my desk at the right time. Meetings will have to be rescheduled, my home life will be in complete disarray, I don’t know how I’ll cope. It’s the lack of uncertainty that really bothers me.’
Rumours of the threat grew when Heathrow and Gatwick airports both showed full screens of planes leaving on time, while announcers on London Underground reported that all lines were running a good service. However, officials were quick to point out that departures were ‘on time’, not actually on time, and the underground service was ‘good’ as opposed to suffering severe disruption, and that usual routine delays should be expected.
The Met Office said part of the problem had been the recent mild weather and the associated lack of snow, ice or falling leaves, but the series of fronts crossing the country today would bring a mix of wintry weather and help to restore normality.
Coalition leaders said there was no cause for concern, despite accusations from the Opposition that punctual transport was the first step on the slippery slope to a fascist state.
But the biggest reassurance came from the bus network. London Mayor Boris Johnson, forsaking his bicycle as part of a PR exercise, had an embarrassing wait in the rain for what he called a ‘blasted bloody bloated bendy bus’ and was threatening to sue the guy in charge, before realising that the delay proved that there was no threat to the British way of life and taking all the credit.