Excellent news, rail travellers! Last year First Group made £108,800,000 profit on its rail business.
But given that this news is some of the best to hit our nation since VE Day, why is it that amongst all the undoubted joy I feel for First's directors and shareholders, I still find myself wondering why I spent an hour on Thursday evening standing with dozens of other people in a cramped vestibule on one of their improbably short rush-hour trains.
And although I'm obviously thrilled that last year eleven First directors between them trousered £2,108,000, a little joyless part of me can't help wondering why the vestibule I was squashed into contained a toilet - one of only two for the entire trainful of people - that to my certain knowledge has been out of order for at least 8 weeks. Perhaps - and here I go being old Dr Cynical again - it might be related to the fact First Group's executive directors all got company cars, or car allowances, to the tune of £80,000 on top of their salaries, which possibly does not entirely encourage them to travel on their trains themselves. Am I the only one who thinks it odd that the people who run a public transport business award themselves company cars for their own travel? Why, it's almost as if they are disingenuous hounds for whom the services they expect us to use are not good enough! Thank goodness that's not true.
But never mind all this! My regular suffering, and that of my fellow passengers on the Cardiff-Southampton line, is a tiny price to pay for ensuring First Group's directors got average bonuses of £168,750 each last year, a sum which, at slightly less than 10 times the annual salary of a First Great Western guard, is practically a slap in the face for them given how hard they worked for it. All my doubts about privatized rail without any possibility of competition between operators have been laid firmly to rest. I no longer see any impediments at all to our getting people to abandon their cars in favour of public transport, and am frankly mystified why anybody would still drive anywhere these days given they can make the same journey with far more delay, cost and discomfort whilst supporting magnificent businesses like this one. Where's the chuffing bunting?
* We're clamping down on non-rejoicers on our railways. Failure to rejoice could land you with a £10,000 fine and a criminal record. Don't risk it.