Our Appalling Public Transport System 21


One of those days which is totally infuriating. I am blogging to you on a stationary train as I attempt to go to York. The train keeps stopping for long periods because, as the guard keeps saying, “There are three trains in front of us.”

We were due to get the 14.30. However the Central Line was entirely suspended, the District Line had “severe delays” and the Piccadilly Line train we eventually got sat still for a quarter of an hour in Hammesrmith before proceeding at a snail’s pace between long rests. In short, a journey that normally takes about 45 minutes between our home and Kings Cross took 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we just missed our train.

National Express then told me that our tickets had no validity on another train; they could not even be upgraded. I had to buy new ones at on the day prices, which cost me over three hundred pounds. Now their train is getting later and later. I am only escorting somebody and coming straight back. I shall now miss my reserved train back and have to buy another on the day ticket.

Our privatised train services have good rolling stock and track only because it was funded by massive taxpayer subsidies. . Meantime their on the day ticket prices are almost three times the EU average per mile.

I have foreign visitors who are completely bewildered by how bad our public transport is, how incomprehensible the fare schemes are and in general what a rip-off the system is. I fear we get too accepting.


21 thoughts on “Our Appalling Public Transport System

  • punkscience

    I’m not too accepting at all! Every time I go onto the continent I am in awe of their efficient and flawless service. I got a train to Leipzig in January and after the guard checked my ticket he came back around with free papers. And chocolates!

    Sadly writing to your MP about this is like punching a brick wall.

  • Marcus Hunt

    Buy a Brompton. Cycle to King’s Cross, fold it up…take the train. If that’s cancelled cycle back home.Simple.

  • David McKelvie

    “There are three trains in front of us” seems to be of the “wrong kind of snow/leaves on the line” genre.

    Another annoyance with our hyper-inefficient railway system is the general per-mile cost. It costs less to fly to London from Edinburgh than to pay the on-the-day single ticket by train.

    At least during the “Railway Era” of the 19th Century, the railway companies were compelled by Act of Parliament to provide at least one train a day that ran at a penny a mile. This led to the day-tripping phenomenon.

    It seems that they forgot that one when British Rail was privatised – and what an idiotic way of privatising anyway, having a different company owning the trackway from the one owning the rolling stock that runs over it.

  • Jason

    Railways are inherently unprofitable, due to the cost of track maintenance, isn’t that the truth? But they have a value to a nation that goes beyond fiscal concerns, such as:

    being better for the environment

    allowing older people/disabled to get around more easily

    national prestige (if operated well)

    a way for members of poorer socio-economic groups to travel longer distances

    convenient for tourism / students / members of the armed forces, etc

    relieving road traffic congestion

    I’d be happy with these benefits to society being met with taxpayer money, if it was well-managed and even better audited. Instead, there is this patchwork for-profit system, where an idiot savant is required to work out the best price for a cross-country journey (I know this to be true, as just such an idiot savant organises my trips for me, saving me a bundle!)

  • Rich

    you’re under the misapprehension the public transport system is there to serve the public. Like everything in the UK it simply soaks up the unemployables and lines the pockets of government cronies, hangers on, lawyers, accountants and consultants. Like the absurd “Lord” Adonis.

  • George Dutton

    Back in the 1920s the railway system of the UK was ready to take on the mantel of distribution of goods to all parts of the UK and it would have worked very well.But the road haulage industry that was just beginning to come into being (it was a very small concern then)didn’t think this was a good idea,the motor manufacturers didn’t think it was a good idea,the oil companies didn’t think it was a good idea.So to cut a long story short and a lot of very thick brown paper envelopes later MPs didn’t think it was a good idea.We have suffered to this day and how.

  • Jon

    Last time I made an enquiry and was able to book ahead, about two years ago. I wanted Birmingham to Edinburgh return, over a long weekend. Best prices:

    * By coach, average journey time 8 hours: 60GBP

    * By air, average journey time 2 hours inc. checking in: 70GBP

    * By rail, average journey time 4 hours: 120GBP.

    In the interests of the environment, I opted for a car-share of four people. Most of my friends, being less inclined to bother about such trivial externalities, flew.

    The idea of free choccies on a privatised British train is a marvellous one. But getting there by flying pig is probably a more likely event 😉

  • Dougie Kinnear

    As long as the rail industry remains as the fragmented profit led failure it has become since privatisation in will never get any better. The Tories ran it down to sell it off at bargain basement prices to allow their business friends to make some easy money, they still are making money while the public have to deal with a ridiculously poor and inefficient service.

    Nationalise, integrate and subsidise is the only way forward if the country is to have a fully functioning public transport system.

  • Dougie

    I agree. The current system, to give it a description it doesn’t deserve, shows we are not serious on climate change.

  • mary

    Where is the Fat Controller when you need him? Rail travel in the UK is a joke.

    Rail regulation

    Prescott had a stormy relationship with the privatised railway industry. He had vigorously opposed the privatisation of the industry while the Labour Party was in opposition, and disliked the party’s policy, established in 1996 just before the flotation of Railtrack on the London Stock Exchange, of committing to renationalise the industry only when resources allowed, which he saw as meaning that it would never be done. Reluctantly, he supported the alternative policy, produced by then shadow transport secretary Clare Short, that the industry should be subjected to closer regulation by the to-be-created Strategic Rail Authority (in the case of the passenger train operators) and the Rail Regulator (in the case of the monopoly and dominant elements in the industry, principally Railtrack). The policy was spelled out in some detail in the Labour Party’s statement in the June 1996 prospectus for the sale of Railtrack shares, and was widely regarded as having depressed the price of the shares.

    In 1998, Prescott was criticised by investors in the railway for his statement – at the Labour Party conference that year – that the privatised railway was a “national disgrace”. The companies felt that they had had some considerable successes in cutting costs and generating new revenues in the short time since their transfer to private sector hands, and that the criticisms were premature and unfair.[citation needed]

    In that speech, Prescott also announced that he would be taking a far tougher line with the companies, and to that end he would be having a “spring clean of the regulators”.[cite this quote] This meant that the incumbent Director of Passenger Rail Franchising – John O’Brien – and the Rail Regulator John Swift QC – both appointed by the previous Conservative government, would have to make way for new Labour appointees. In February 1999, the regulation of the passenger rail operators fell to Sir Alastair Morton,[15] who Prescott announced would be appointed as chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, which would take over from the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising whose office would be wound up. In July 1999, the new Rail Regulator appointed by Prescott was Tom Winsor.[15] They shared Prescott’s view that the railway industry needed a considerable shake-up in its institutional, operational, engineering and economic matrix to attract and retain private investment and enable the companies within it to become strong, competent and successful.

    (Wikipedia)

  • Polo

    A lousy service does not stop some railway companies losing the run of themselves.

    “Due to the late arrival of an incoming train” has now joined the litany of fatuous excuses. So why was the earlier train late? Leaves, perhaps? Or maybe these guys fly all the time and have unconsciously, and uncritically, absorbed the aerial vocabulary.

  • D. Edmund Brady

    Anyone who spends time in Germany would

    frankly find your incredibly frustrating

    tale beyond belief. Like most other

    things about our once great country the

    reasons are entirely to do with our

    corrupt political class. However things

    may be about to change. It seems middle

    England has finally at 30 seconds to 12

    woken up, and are set to give the BNP a

    chance. Let us wait and see what happens,

    perhaps we will have a pleasant surprise.

  • D. Edmund Brady

    Anyone who spends time in Germany would

    frankly find your incredibly frustrating

    tale beyond belief. Like most other

    things about our once great country the

    reasons are entirely to do with our

    corrupt political class. However things

    may be about to change. It seems middle

    England has finally at 30 seconds to 12

    woken up, and are set to give the BNP a

    chance. Let us wait and see what happens,

    perhaps we will have a pleasant surprise.

  • Jon

    Err – Mr. Brady, forgive me, but you seem to be inadvertently suggesting that having the BNP come into power would be “a pleasant surprise”.

    It would be a surprise alright, much like it was in 1930s Germany i.e. not a pleasant one. Just imagine: a country that successfully kicked fascism out of Germany ends up being ruled by them!

  • Zigmund Void

    Why don’t you lot shut the fuck up? Try being disabled and attempt to get about a city, let alone across country, in the UK? The trains have always had appalling service and whinging Pommies love to go on about how dear everything is but my two impaired feet have made me want to bust the nose of every one of you pathetic wankers who think only of their personally importuned lives. I’d love to dig up my favourite photo of from the tube of a sign proudly proclaiming the number of stairs one needs to ascend/descend in order to take the train from that station. HELLO?!

  • Zigmund Void

    By the way that sign said something like well over 100 steps needing to be traversed. Try that in a wheelchair or if you had other severe mobility problems.

    As for this:

    ‘I have foreign visitors who are completely bewildered by how bad our public transport is, how incomprehensible the fare schemes are and in general what a rip-off the system is. I fear we get too accepting.’

    Shut down all the pubs so Brits will stop self-medicating and DO something about what they are allowing, collectively, to happen to themselves. Otherwise the Aussies are completely right in coining the term ‘whinging Poms’ because that’s all anyone ever does, otherwise.

    ‘Oh well, what are you going to do, then, eh? Oi! Give us another pint, mate!’

  • John Ball

    Britain suffers from a totally corrupt system. Politicians scratch the backs of big business and get rewarded with juicy non-executive directorships when they retire from the political gravy train. But a country gets the government it deserves. The Brits need to wake up and smell the coffee, before Jackboot Jacquie really turns the country into a police state.

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