Tag Archives: uk infrastructure

Rail price rises have me steaming

LNER on SouthernPrior to becoming an out-of-London-commuter, rail ticket rises never bothered me. An "8%" rise amounted to 10p or so on a tube ticket and whilst the incremental creep on that has made it feel more expensive over the years, in practical terms it never seemed material.

An 8% rise on my current railcard costs, however, needs to be budgeted for next year and affects my family finances. The 8% on my ticket cost works out to over £250 a year (or, in layman’s terms, half the price of a new iPhone).

Now, if this was a fine, upstanding service I might sympathize a little with the rise. After all, the rail companies are complaining that privatization has ‘bled’ money out of the national railway infrastructure, and trains are generally thought of as better for the planet than cars and planes and the like. But – isn’t privatization meant to increase profitability and customer service? Clearly not for poorly managed companies. And I think you all know what I feel about Southwest Trains and Southern’s overall record; friendly on-board staff do not make up for general incompetence and mediocrity elsewhere in the organization.

But – <sigh> – there are few alternatives. If only commuters could afford to strike against the railways, that way would justice lie.

To the management at Southwest Trains

Dear management team at SWT,

Thank you. For the privilege of furnishing me with a ticket to travel on one of your luxuriant trains. For the economies made when I purchased, at a cost of over 3000 pounds, an annual travel card. The ‘gold card’ privileges, I’m sure will furnish me with lavish and extreme comforts at some indeterminate, difficult-to-conceive time in the future.

Thank you for your convenient and spacious parking facilities. It is helpfully located, just far enough away from the station to result in a complete drenching in the event of one of England’s frequent and persistent bouts of precipitation. I find it remarkable value at over 7 pounds a day. Simply remarkable.

Thank you for the morning rush. There’s nothing like the swarm of tired, grumpy people first thing in the morning to kick start your day. It provides the perfect dose of adrenaline to get the blood boiling ahead of a day in the office. Thank you also for refusing to add additional capacity to the line – where would we be without natural selection? And after all, sitting is bad.

Speaking of which, thank you for providing such inadequate seating. It hones my hunter/gatherer skills as I cram my way past elderly ladies in search of a perch. It has made me more appreciative of what I have; I am piteously grateful when I can find a broken fold-down seat next to one of your curiously fragrant toilets.

Thank you for your cracked cooperation with the other rail operators. It is a rousing challenge when, every month when my railcard fails to be read by a barrier gate and I seek a replacement, I have to go to a SWT office and can’t be helped by your partners elsewhere in the British rail network.Truly, Nationalisation is a terrible evil.

Of late, I’ve noticed that you seem to have employed psychic train drivers… they are inevitably and persistently late when I am anxious to get home and invariably punctual when I’m running more than 15 seconds late for a train. I can only assume you have some ingenious mechanism by which the punctuality of a train is in some way powered by the collective unhappiness of the people ahead of or behind it. In this respect, you have adapted the powers of the slime from Ghostbusters 2 as a power supply and should be applauded for it.

Thank you for the disruptive modernisation works you are soon to be carrying out at Basingstoke station. Whilst I don’t immediately see the logic in modernising the perfectly functional ticket hall, in which no regular commuters spend any great period of time, I’m sure there’s a sound strategy behind it and its not at all an enormous, bloated waste of time and money.

Ah, train travel. One of the most idyllic ways to travel, and a remarkable innovation. Every time I stand perched for an hour between a drunk banker and an aromatic systems architect, I marvel at the elegy that is Britain’s rail system. I look forward to the hot, sweaty summer days ahead; to desensitising myself to empathy and building my lower back strength as I stand for the two hours a day I travel with you.

Thank you.