Response to review in the RCHS Journal of

“Railway Conversion – the impractical dream”

 

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2 March 2007

 

Dear Editor,

May I respond to the Review of 'Railway conversion - the impractical dream' (March 2007). Obviously, a reviewer is entitled to his opinion. He criticises the "over-generous use of italics". Italics are used, mainly, to distinguish my findings from extracts taken from sources, both of Conversionists & others. His view that the book is not a balanced view of the issue, ignores the fact that eleven of the sixteen chapters - some 165 of its 223 pages - include detailed extracts of the various schemes put forward. Only one chapter deals with the discriminatory conduct by Government towards Railways. It is relevant in order to outline the cause of the rail deficits upon which repeated stress is placed by Conversionists. It could not be assumed that readers had seen my other books - which he mentions carried similar - though, more detailed - information. He claims the book lacks balance, but neglects to give examples of unbalanced comments. The book sets out hundreds of points made by Conversionists, & follows them with my findings. There is a lack of specific quotes from the contents - a commonplace in reviews. Books on the subject of reviewing recommend: "a few quotes", "an assessment of the book's place in the literature of the subject", "how comprehensive is the research", “reference to tables, illustrations, photos, index" - to name but a few. None of these are in the review. This is, of course, the first book on the subject to bring together both sides of the issue. I dispute his claim that there are no novel observations on the subject. (Definition - "novel: of a new kind, hitherto unknown”). I have made many new & original observations, which will not be found elsewhere in print. My detailed analysis of the only scheme to address a specific route, has alone identified scores of new, overlooked, aspects that demonstrate the impracticability of conversion, & proves - for the first time - that financial claims of fares & cost levels are seriously flawed. The research into the reality of actual 'conversions' over the past 50 years is unique, but does not merit a mention. His criticism of over-generous use of  'phrases such as total nonsense' is not borne out by the facts. In the whole book 'total nonsense' & 'absolute nonsense' appear once, & ‘complete nonsense' thrice. The phrase 'academic nonsense' was used by the road lobby to dismiss views advanced by a non-Railwayman to challenge road lobby figures - & hence is repeated in the book - since it is part of the Conversionists' claim. As the length of their presentation occupied the equivalent of one page of the 223 in the book, my use of the criticised phrase is - by comparison - trifling. I plead guilty to my use of exclamation marks - but many claims by conversionists provoked it! I apologise if he had to count to find that they average only about one per page.