SWINDON and Cricklade Railway, currently celebrating its 40th birthday, has launched a £2.5m appeal.

It aims to give the two towns their first rail link since a bunch of fools closed the last one in the 1960s.

I don’t know about you, but hearing that news made me very happy.

It also got me thinking about how heritage railways across the country can raise loads of cash for their projects in as short a time as possible.

The answer has been staring us in the face for years. We should have people from heritage railways go on secondment to the boards of actual railway companies with mainline franchises.

The railway companies would improve, their revenues would go up and the heritage railway folk, even if they were paid only a fraction of what the average railway company board member takes home, would soon have every penny they needed for even their most ambitious projects.

Visit a heritage railway and you’ll notice that just about every member of the public looks happy.

Visit a mainline station and you’ll notice that just about every member of the public looks about as cheery as a recently-deceased sinner who’s just realised they’re only allowed on the ‘down’ escalator.

Can you imagine the minutes of some of those board meetings...

We welcomed our new board members who are on secondment from a heritage railway organisation.

They indicated that for future meetings they would not need the services of a car or driver, just a standard class railway ticket for use on our company’s services. According to our new members, all railway company senior executives should be obliged to use their firms’ standard service at all times.

Some of our senior executives queried this, pointing out that having to use the train, and not even being given a private carriage or first class ticket, would mean they had to mix with ordinary people and might catch something nasty or be overwhelmed by terrible odours.

Our new members countered that although members of the public do not generally have six-figure or higher salaries, this does not necessarily make them disease vectors or impinge upon their personal hygiene.

On the subject of terrible odours, our new members pointed out that some of the food and drink we offer our customers, in spite of the best efforts of the frontline staff obliged to prepare and serve it, ‘...tastes like roadkill marinated in ditch water for a fortnight in high summer, and then draped for half an hour over a nuclear waste outflow pipe.’ They added that serving tasty food, prepared on site, is a little bit more expensive in the short term but pays dividends in the end because far more customers actually want to buy the stuff.

Our new members made a number of other suggestions which caused consternation and bewilderment, although it was agreed that their feasibility should be investigated as a matter of urgency.

It was suggested, for example, that the most economical price for any given journey should be displayed prominently at stations, on company literature and on our website. It was also suggested that when a service fails to appear at the time stated on the schedule, we should admit the fact instead of pointing to some obscure clause of the official rules.

Other board members insisted that we should continue doing these things because the public are too stupid to notice, but our new members said that, in fact, they’re not stupid at all...

Some simple advice to restore a reputation

IF I may, I’d like to offer a few words of advice to any senior figures in certain international charities who happen to be reading this.

Should you be such a person, I hope you won’t think me presumptuous in addressing you.

I realise I’m only a member of the public and therefore probably not all that significant in the overall scheme of things, but bear with me.

After all, our donations pay for the work of your organisations, not to mention your generous remuneration and your pension fund contributions.

Some of us are also also volunteers for your organisations - people who are willing to give their time, their skill and their hard work for no reward other than the thought that they are changing the word in some small way for the better.

Which is a hell of a lot more, let’s face it, than you lot are willing to do. That being the case, if you could see your way clear to not keeping us in the dark should certain people working for you turn out to have the morals of alley cats, that would be great.

If you are honest, we will be more likely to be reassured when you tell us that such vermin are a tiny minority, and that you care more about the vulnerable people you are supposed to help than you do about bad PR.

Moving forward, should it come to your attention that certain of your employees are committing acts of vile, exploitative degeneracy against some of the very people they’re paid to help, you might want to get in touch with the local police about the matter.

You might also want to make sure the names of the people involved are made known to every other organisation in your sector.

Alternatively, you could just carry on as before, and damage your reputation even further.