Here’s a fantasy tram system for Truro (pop: 20,000)

Truro Cathedral. Image: Tim Green/Wikimedia Commons.

Continuing our occasional thread of speculative, and frankly pretty silly, transport proposals from readers…

Dear Jonn,

I’ve loved the series of over-ambitious public transport proposals in Citymetric, so I thought I’d do my own, slightly less grand one.

Truro – with a population of around 20,000 – is much smaller than the cities already covered, but I think it’s pretty interesting given the large amount of travel into the city in relation to the population size.

Around 14,000 people commute into the city every day, with this number swelling massively in the touristy summer months. There’s also been rapid development along the western corridor of the A390 to Threemilestone. This includes a new ‘Stadium for Cornwall’ scheduled for completion by next year.

My tram system would follow the A390 from the new Stadium into the city, relieving a massively overcrowded road which is deadlocked at rush hours. There is already a park and ride system along this route but it’s poorly used and buses are still contributing to the traffic problem.

Ooooh. Click to expand.

From the stadium, the tram would stop at the park and ride, Truro College and Treliske Hospital (big sources of traffic) and New County Hall before turning into the city centre, stopping at Truro train station, Royal Cornwall Museum and the bus station. The tram would then pop out of the other side, ending up at the out of town shopping centres and Park & Ride in the east.

A new rail halt at Threemilestone has been discussed, but seems pretty unlikely and wouldn’t relieve Truro College and the Hospital, which make up a large chunk of the traffic. Truro and Threemilestone are unusual being so spread along one road in the west and the traffic is awful. There’s already a fair amount of pedestrianisation in the centre but there’s no real reason for there to be cars in the centre of Truro at all.

Local councils being local councils, this idea doesn’t stand a chance. But it’s fun to think about.        

Owen Winter (@OwenWntr)

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“You don’t look like a train buff”: on sexism in the trainspotting community

A female guard on London’s former Metropolitan Railway. Image: Getty.

I am a railway enthusiast. I like looking at trains, I like travelling by train and I like the quirks of the vast number of different train units, transit maps and train operating companies.

I get goosebumps standing on a platform watching my train approach, eyeballing the names of the destinations on the dot matrix display over and over again, straining to hear the tinny departure announcements on the tannoy.  I’m fortunate enough to work on the site of a former railway station that not only houses beautiful old goods sheds, but still has an active railway line running alongside it. You can imagine my colleagues’ elation as I exclaim: “Wow! Look at that one!” for the sixth time that day, as another brilliantly gaudy freight train trundles past.

I am also a woman in my twenties. A few weeks my request to join a railway-related Facebook group was declined because I – and I quote here – “don’t look like a train buff”.

After posting about this exchange on Twitter, my outrage was widely shared. “They should be thrilled to have you!” said one. “What does a train buff look like?!” many others asked.

The answer, of course, is a middle-aged white man with an anorak and notebook. Supposedly, anyway. That’s the ancient stereotype of a “trainspotter”, which sadly shows no sign of waning.

I’m not alone in feeling marginalised in the railway community. Sarah, a railway enthusiast from Bournemouth, says she is used to funny looks when she tells people that she is not only into trains, but an engineer.

She speaks of her annoyance at seeing a poster bearing the phrase: “Beware Rail Enthusiasts Disease: Highly Infectious To Males Of All Ages”. “That did bug me,” she says, “because women can enjoy trains just as much as men.”

Vicki Pipe is best known as being one half of the YouTube sensation All The Stations, which saw her and her partner Geoff Marshall spend 2017 visiting every railway station in Great Britain.

“During our 2017 adventure I was often asked ‘How did your boyfriend persuade you to come along?’” she says. “I think some found it unusual that a woman might be independently interested or excited enough about the railways to spend sixteen weeks travelling to every station on the network.”

Pipe, who earlier this year travelled to all the stations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, is passionate about changing the way in which people think of the railways, including the perception of women in the industry.

“For me it’s the people that make the railways such an exciting place to explore – and many of these are women,” she explains. “Women have historically and continue to play an important part in the railway industry – throughout our journey we met female train drivers, conductors, station staff, signallers and engineers. I feel it is important that more female voices are heard so that women of the future recognise the railways as a place they too can be part of.”

Despite the progress being made, it’s clear there is still a long way to go in challenging stereotypes and proving that girls can like trains, too.

I’m appalled that in 2019 our life choices are still subjected to critique. This is why I want to encourage women to embrace their interests and aspirations – however “nerdy”, or unusual, or untraditionally “female” they may be – and to speak up for things that I was worried to speak about for so long.

We might not change the world by doing so but, one by one, we’ll let others know that we’ll do what we want – because we can.