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26 February, 2007


Two rail crashes in South East England in 2000 and 2002 were reported in terms of their specific locations, Hatfield and Potters Bar, despite those names meaning very little to anyone living or working outside the region.  A crash in London in 1999 was even more specific, naming the station involved: Paddington.

Yet Friday's thankfully less devastating crash on the outskirts of Kendal, a place name probably at least recognised nationally, isn't being reported as 'the Kendal crash' but merely by the county in which it occurred: 'the Cumbria rail crash'.
I noticed that oddity in a TV news item last night, when a reporter signed-off as "[name], for the BBC, in Cumbria", and it seems newspaper coverage is settling on the same shorthand term. Where in Cumbria?

I'm not sure why the metropolitan media don't just admit they have negligible knowledge of, or interest in, anything beyond the Home Counties, and just report it as having happened 'somewhere in the North'.

Okay, 2001's rail crash in North Yorkshire, about as far from Selby as the 'Cumbria crash' was from Kendal, was reported as 'the Selby crash', which is an obvious exception to my suggested trend, but I think the general, and blindingly obvious point holds: news in SE England is over-reported, at the expense of anywhere much more than an an hour from Central London.

This isn't just 'Southerner envy' – important information is being withheld by sheer laziness. Imagine if someone with family in Carlisle or Penrith heard about the crash via one of these excessively vague reports. Imagine if someone else had a friend on that train, but who was due to have disembarked at Oxenholme. What use is 'train crash in Cumbria' in informing those people whether to be concerned?

[Update 28/02/07: And now, a word from our railways correspondent: Tim.
As he says, the Pendolino coaches survived a 153 km/h (95 mph) derailment remarkably well, and injuries were due to people being hurled around within intact cylinders rather than the vehicles themselves being wrecked. Despite skewed media reporting, rail remains a very safe means of transport.]


On the local news here, the Selby train crash was referred to as the 'Great Heck railway crash', in reference to the nearby village and possibly the dramatic effect of calling something 'Great Heck'.

Posted by Neil T. at February 28, 2007 11:47 AM

Slightly at a tangent, but it always annoys me that a bit of snow in the SE is generalised to bad weather over the whole of the country, with dire travel warnings issued if a few TV executives are slightly held up from Maidenhead to the West End.

Posted by looby at February 28, 2007 12:21 PM

Neil: Great name! There's a small village near Settle called 'Wham', though luckily it's not on the railway line. I suppose a crash there would be taken more seriously than one in nearby Giggleswick.

Cliff: That was in my first draft, but I took it out as a truism. Your example is phrased better than I managed, though. ;)

Posted by NRT at February 28, 2007 02:27 PM
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