Derailed 96

Regular readers know I love railways and am constantly on the move by train. They also know that I am constantly furious at the mess left by rail privatisation, with the most expensive rail fares in the world, plus massive taxpayer subsidies, leaving huge profits for private shareholders of operating companies on “can’t lose”, taxpayer underwritten deals.

I calculated that my “super off peak return” ticket from Ramsgate to Newark, bought yesterday for £83.70, costs over 20p a mile. I contemplated yesterday afternoon posting about what an incredibly large charge that is for train travel compared to other countries. I was going to invite people to give examples of per mile cost on other tickets in the UK and elsewhere.

I then reflected that few of my long-suffering readers find my railway postings as interesting as I do, and decided not to inflict it on you.

Then this morning I went to catch the 8.37 from Newark, which gets in to London at 10.02. I am on it now. But I was informed that, whereas on South Eastern services from Ramsgate an off-peak service is one which gets into London after 10.00, on East Coast services an off-peak service is one which departs from wherever you catch it after 10.00. So the same train is not an off-peak service at one point in its journey, but becomes off-peak later on.

The first “Off-peak” service from Newark does not get into London until 11.35.

I reluctantly therefore asked to upgrade my “off-peak” ticket so I could get the 8.37. I was told this would cost £94.20!! However, the lady added helpfully, I could just buy a single to London for £74.50 and then use my off-peak ticket from London to Ramsgate.

This I have done. So my return journey from Ramsgate to Newark is costing me just shy of £160. It would be a lot cheaper to drive – in a Chelsea tractor.

You may recall I posted some time ago that when making a journey from Truro to York, the Virgin train from Truro was severely late, causing me to miss my advance purchased train to York. While I had shown my tickets and explained at Kings Cross, I had been told that as Virgin were a separate company, it was nothing to do with East Coast, and I had to buy a new ticket for £180. I applied to Virgin for a refund, who said that as their train had only been 52 minutes late, they owed me nothing and my missing a train from another company was not their business.

That was crazy. Now again, having different operating companies using different definitions of what constitutes “off-peak” coming into London is yet another example of the way the crazed “competition” model, in reality a series of taxpayer-funded private monopolies, works to the massive disadvantage of the consumer.

The railways need to be renationalised, and the modernisation and expansion of the network should be at the centre of economic growth strategy. A full 200mph high speed line to Aberdeen, another to Cardiff and a third to Stranraer for Belfast should be undertaken immediately. Beeching lines should be restored, and new lines to new population centres be a major priority. If the money from quantitve easing was applied to this and to homebuilding, rather than being given to the banking bonus pool as at present, we might actually see some life in our economy.

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96 thoughts on “Derailed

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  • evgueni

    This reminded me of my regular journeys between Zurich and London about 10 years ago. I would occasionally, if travelling during rush hour, ‘splash out’ on a 1st class rail ticket to Zurich airport – a 20 minute journey. The cost was ~£4. Then at Heathrow, for a similar 15-minute journey to Paddington, it was some ridiculous multiple of that even for an ordinary 2nd class ticket. The carriages were dirty and cramped. I do not know who, but someone is skimming the cream. The state of the railways in the UK can only be the result of a scam. Privatised rents, socialised costs – something along those lines.

  • N_

    @ Craig – why Stranraer? A rail route from London to Belfast would be much quicker if it went to Fleetwood in Lancashire.

    Going through Stranraer to get from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Belfast would be fine, but that’s probably not what you meant!

  • N_

    Often staff will look you in the face and tell you the most barefaced lies. Either that, or they just make something up so they don’t have to press so many keys on their keyboard. Don’t worry – they will have forgotten it all a few days later. You’re lucky if you meet a human. They are conditioned to think of passengers (‘customers’) as a pain in the butt. They often talk with a sarcastic or otherwise contemptuous tone in their voice. They’re not allowed to step out of line, and so you shouldn’t cause trouble either. It’s sometimes very hard or impossible to ‘hook’ their ‘human’.

    A swamp of numbed-out psychological illness covers the country.

    This is one of the things those of us who care about humanity should be talking about. Many people who haven’t thought about it before at the front of their minds will agree right away with this observation.

    And it’s getting worse.

    It’s also more prevalent in London and the surrounding area than in the rest of the country, and as you travel into London you can feel things getting worse as you go from 20 miles out to 15 and 10 and 5 miles out from the centre.

    What they told you about missed connections and about what counts as after rush hour for cheap-day purposes is very probably false.

  • N_

    Oops – major typo! I meant they will have forgotten it all a few MINUTES later, not ‘days’ later!!

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