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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  • Gary

    You are quite right. Soon all rail tickets will have to be first class due to cost alone. I should not be able to look at my car as a cheaper mode of transport.

  • DavidH

    Here in Thailand, Bangkok to Chiangmai is about 410 miles and costs between 5 ponds for a 3rd class seat and 25 pounds for a first class sleeper. That’s between 1.2 and 6 pence per mile. Journey takes about 13 hours so an average of just over 30 miles an hour… Busses are quicker and a bit cheaper…

  • Mary

    I am in total agreement Craig. Send your piece to one of this new bunch. Burns made such a success of continuing with the privatisation of OUR NHS so I wouldn’t bother with him. He obviously thinks privatisation is a good thing. You have a connection though. He went to school in Ghana, Christ the King School.

    McLoughlin is the ex Chief Whip, Baker has stayed put up the junction and Stephen Hammond I have not heard of. Greening, Villiers, and Penning have gone. Quite a clear out.

    Hammond’s register is interesting. Previously, or maybe still is, a Parliamentary Consultant to the Professional Contractors’ Group (based near Heathrow??), paid visit to Azerbaijan, bunce from DB Schenker (Deutsche Bahn Schenker a private rail company previously English, Welsh and Scottish Railways) etc etc and even a book token from the South London Israel Forum.
    {} and the history before that

  • TFS


    Leeds to London about £104, however

    Leeds to Sheffield, then Sheffield to Derby, then Derby to Birmingham, about £50

    A big thank you to the ticket person who saw my abject horror at having to pay about £100 to go to Brum, and saved me over £50.

    This is FRAUD

  • Chris

    Netherlands train service has also been in a decline but it’s relative. Groningin to Maastricht is approx. same distance as you did (330km by road) and costs €48.00 for a day day return full price or €28.80 after 09:00 or all day in July/August. You need a year pass for the reductions but that’s about €50 and up to 4 of you can travel together on that. There’s no tricks, no need to save cornflakes packets, just turn up at station, go to the machine, get your ticket, get on train.
    Guess I’m stuck here a bit longer, can’t imagine returning to Blighty any time soon. Will take more than a 3rd place at Olympics.

  • nevermind

    This was all flagged up before the rail privatisation to roughly 1000 different companies. We knew that companies who compete with each other would not take responsibilities for other companies, late trains and missed connections. privatisation has made the railways a plaything for the treasury who can play them off against each other, choosing the highest bidder regardless of whether they can deliver.

    Network rail is also in disarray having to make do with cut backs and constant staff reductions.

    Unless the rail service is nationalised again this will not improve.

  • Mochyn69

    Craig, am absolutely with you on rail travel in the UK.

    Privatisation in the UK has been an unmitigated disaster, as far as I can see.

    China rail’s high speed CRH bullet train ticket from Wuhan to Guangzhou covering a distance of 968 kilometres (just over 600 miles)costs about 490CNY, that is about 49GBP.

    Couldn’t be bothered to do the maths myself as it’s already there on wikipedia – . ‘The second class fare is about 0.46CNY per kilometre ..’

    The journey takes about three and a half hours, and has recently been extended to Shenzhen north, near the border with Hong Kong.

    It’s the world’s fastest train service.

  • Mochyn69

    Did the maths after all, £0.80 a mile for the fastest train in the world and that includes compulsory insurance.

    The ordinary trains are about a quarter of the cost, but take about four times as long.

  • John Goss

    In Soviet Russia in the early eighties you had to buy bus tickets at a kiosk but I didn’t have time or I would have been late and for getting on a bus without a ticket I picked up a ‘straf'(fine). The fine, though expensive by Russian standards, was cheaper than my local bus service. If I had been Russian the whole bus would have shamed me. Sorry, I’ve gone a bit off the rails here but the message is: if the state owns and runs it it is cheaper. Whether it is better is a different question. And that goes for utility services! There’s no question about it.

  • John

    Mochlyn have you done the maths I think a decimal point is out £49.00 divided by 600 miles = £0.08166 per mile or about 8 pence per mile.

  • nevermind

    Wow, Mochleyn, that is cheap indeed, surely there must be some sort of subsidy. Not that I’m against subsidies for public transport networks, they are necessarry.

    More rail freight, after a murderous onslaught of the 70’s/80’s and 90’s, must be a consideration as well. The east west rail link so much talked about for some 30 years now, could move Irish transit goods off our roads all together, in 6hrs you could move via train from Gt. Yarmouth to Cardiff, but the powers to be…

    there is no long term planning at all and after yesterdays emphasis by the PM to less planning and red tape, a sob to the bricks and mortar brigade alone, we will further slump.

    Modern railway engineering needs more engineers. Britain is devoid of engineers, it is a crying shame.

  • Paul B

    I tend to lean towards ‘the free market’. And I wish the government would sometimes butt out, so as not to chose winners and losers with ‘crony capitalism’.

    I think for the communications industry for example (phones, internet, television, etc.), privatisation has ultimately worked. BT still owns a lot of the network/infrastructure, but broadly speaking there is lots of choice and it’s competitive.

    But I don’t think the free market always works.

    Trains are a case in point. And the water companies. These aren’t free markets at all.

  • CheebaCow

    Australia, Melbourne to Sydney. 600 miles / 70 pounds = 11 pence a mile. Government owned. However Melbourne’s city and suburban lines are privately run and they are a fucking joke. Since privatisation in the 90’s, the service is much more expensive and running worse than ever.

  • JimmyGiro

    Mary @ 7 Sep, 2012 – 10:23 am

    Big reshuffles will generate a lot of pissed-off ‘colleagues’ at Tory central. It will be interesting who the ‘new-best-friends’ of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are, in the next few months.

    A good time for leadership challenges is close to reshuffles, where the chagrin is still hot; but not too soon, so as the ‘traitors’ can avoid being accused of sour grapes.

  • OldMark

    ‘I think for the communications industry for example (phones, internet, television, etc.), privatisation has ultimately worked. BT still owns a lot of the network/infrastructure, but broadly speaking there is lots of choice and it’s competitive.

    But I don’t think the free market always works.

    Trains are a case in point. And the water companies. These aren’t free markets at all.’

    Good points , Paul B. Clearly the development of mobile telephony in the 80s would have made the BT near monopoly obsolete, but no comparable considerations applied re the railways or water, both of which should have been retained in public ownership.

  • murdermostfowl


    Every sympathy with your Virgin / East Coast problem.

    If you want to be difficult (and are prepared to write snotty letters…)

    Take both East Coast and Virgin jointly to the small claims court. (Initial cost to you about £50 – refundable if you win) You had a through ticket from A to B (Truro to York?) This ticket was not honoured. You have little claim if they transported you, however late, on the original ticket. About the only poor service they cannot disclaim is failing to take you at all.

    In the past, I have understood that they not to be prepared to go to Court

  • JimmyGiro


    If these so called private companies are subsidised, is it fair to compare them with ‘free-market’ capitalism, when judging ‘nationalised’ services and utilities?

  • Mary

    It just occurred to me (whilst digging up potatoes!) that we now have the Fat Controller.

    PS Send for the men in white coats for Paul B. That’s not Paul Burstow is it? He also got the chop and is not a happy bunny.

    Having been one of Lansley’s stooges on the Health and Social Care Bill (there’s a misnomer) Burstow is now saying that the ‘cutz’ are ‘dangerous and flawed’. Yet another You Could Not Make It Up.


  • Frazer

    Nationalise ? Heavens forbid. We wouldn’t want Mr Branson to miss out on the opportunity to buy another island, would we ?
    And he is such a nice man and you know that he really needs your hard earned money to keep him in the style to which he is accustomed.
    NOT !

  • Tris

    How I envy mainlanders with their fast, efficient, cheap railways which are run to serve the public, rather than to make obscene profits. (The same could be said about the buses.)

    I was saying 20 years ago that we should be restoring the railways. Not only would it make travelling more pleasant, but just look at how many “men’s” jobs (of which we are desperately short, whilst we still have the same number of “men”) it would create.

    Yes it would be expensive, and of course the current London government would warn us that businessmen would run screaming from the UK’s shores, but plenty others would be looking to see what they could make out of a massive restoration programme.

    Oh for a government in London with vision. Fat chance though.

  • Mary

    O/T Prince Harry, the brave young soldier and part time nudist, has gone to Afghanistan to do some killing. He will be i/c of weapons deployment in an Apache. His father is said to be ‘immensely proud’ of him.

    A good illustration of how all that waving of the Union flag this Jubilee and Olympics year has borne fruit.

  • Colin Carr

    Here’s another Thai travel tail to annoy you Craig.
    Next month I’m flying Bangkok – Hongkong and return with Emirates in a nice shiny new Airbus A380. My round trip economy excursion fare for just over 2000 miles flying is GBP160, or 8p/mile.
    Why so cheap? The word is Competition, Air Asia Cathay Pacific THAI etc also fly the route.

    I share your feelings on the whole sorry saga of rail privatisation. What induced an otherwise fairly decent PM, John Major, to start this madness? As the train operators only have franchises to operate the routes for a few years, nationalising them should be fairly cheap and easy. National Rail is already nationised in all but name. That leaves the leasing companies, whose trains could be compulsorily purchesed, and maintenance companies. They could easily be absorbed into Network Rail, shedding their unproductive (to the travelling public) lawyers and accountants in the process.
    Oh wait a minute, I’ve just seen a fatal flaw in my idea… 🙁

  • Chris2

    The case for re-nationalising not only the railways but utilities and other natural monopolies, is pretty well unanswerable. And it would have occurred, I suspect, had not the privatisers been able to rely on the Labour Party to do nothing.
    The truth is that, so obstinately committed are Miliband and co to neo-liberalism, that companies have no fear at all of either government or consumer.
    There must be some commuter heavy constituencies in which independent “Railway Nationalisation” candidates could make inroads. Until then it will be easier for the political parties to collect their payoffs from the likes of Virgin than to protect the people from their rapacity.
    It goes without saying that in pre-nationalisation days, in the C19th, the sort of things of which Craig is complaining could never have taken place. The Victorians regulated the Railways much more strictly than their Thatcherite imitators dare.

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