Sunday, 7 February 2010

Train rant...

Ok. I'm bored.

I'm on a train heading back to uni and the wifi's gone down - which actually means it's faster than usual… I'm in first class, a perk I got for booking my ticket later than i should have and finding that the advanced 1st class tickets are £10 cheaper than the normal ones. £10 cheaper and you get free tea (out of a real mug rather than a paper cup!), biscuits and are guaranteed a table and a working reclining seat. Quite nice really.

So, train fares. This one cost me £54 from London to Leuchars, a week in advance. I have bought tickets the night before and paid £28. It's all to do with how popular the train is, which usually depends on what time of the week it is and a how lucky you are. When I got on the train today there was the usual announcement saying you could only use East Coast Train tickets booked for this particular train, no virgin tickets and CERTAINLY no first capital connect ones… But this time round, rather than just saying "you will have to pay for a full price ticket if you do not have a valid one" they also mentioned the price. £111. That's for economy.

So why does it cost me only £54 when someone who left their ticket or railcard at home, got on the wrong train, or just decided to travel today has to pay over twice as much? And to upgrade to 1st class it costs £25 to anywhere past Doncaster - they failed to mention that online it's actually cheaper on this train…

There's no consistency in train fares. It's all dependent on the company, where you live (going in/out of London is usually more expensive) and what other people fancy doing. Train companies only have a certain number of cheaper advanced tickets so you have to get in fast. I managed to get a ticket for one of the busiest trains i've ever been on for only £11 by buying 2 months in advance (it was about £17 without a railcard). However if I want to travel to St Albans, the cheapest I can get a ticket from my local tube station is £8 and that's with a Young-Person's-railcard-discounted London Travelcard and an extension ticket from zone 6. If you're a normal person a single ticket will set you back £13. So a difference of £4 and you can travel an extra 500 miles.

I understand that part of the deal is that by buying well in advance and committing yourself to a train, losing any right of a refund if you miss it or cannot go after all, you get a better deal. You have to pay extra for the freedom to go on any train on any one day, or travel at short notice.

However, this is a bit stupid.

If you want to go to Edinburgh, with Easyjet you can buy a ticket an hour before the flight for about £85 with only hand luggage. It's not the most luxurious journey, but it's nice enough for me (oh em gee! you can see the lake district from above!) and it only takes about an hour to actually travel (not including check in) so you don't have to endure too much and it's £26 cheaper than a train where you can be stuck next to a complete idiot or crying baby for anything up to 5 hours for the same journey. Drunk people like trains and people can get on without tickets at some stations - on planes you have stewardesses and stewards to keep people under control and you don't get on without a ticket.

Sometimes it's cheaper to fly anyway, even with advanced price train tickets. In a time when everyone's worrying about climate change, it's a bit ironic that in a country that's trying to get other countries to sign treaties to save the rainforest, it's often cheaper to fly somewhere than go by train. I myself usually go by train cause I'm saving my carbon for when I inevitably fly to America as I've never been and want to go there at some point to visit friends and family and one day eat in a real American diner. I also have heavy luggage and i can get a straight-through train from London to uni and visa versa. But many don't with their small suitcases they can have as hand luggage.

No wonder GNER had to sell… And National Express had to sell… and only the government stepped in to save one of the most useful railway lines in the UK.

All I'm going to say is thank you to the Conservatives for privatising our railways. As you can see it works really well…

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