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.