Let me begin by saying that enjoy Industrial Archeology as much as the next man. Indeed I’ve got shares in the West Somerset Railway and a very worthy institution it is. Every so often I go down there for a wallow in nostalgia, but I haven’t been on a modern train for years and years.
The fact is I can’t afford to go by train. Last time I needed to go to London a return ticket cost £147.50* and parking £6.90. Megabus cost £21.46** and National Express £24.60**. The coach guarantees a seat but I understand you are permitted to stand all the way on the train.
The response of the railway enthusiasts amazes me. “You can get a much cheaper fare if you shop around” they say or “you need to book a month ahead”. A new one on me was “Have you tried a split fare?”
This means you buy a ticket to Didcot, say, and then another to complete the journey to Paddington! Even Ryanair don’t sell you a ticket half way to New York and then ask if you’d like to buy another to complete the journey! “No thanks Mr. O’Leary, I think I’ll get off here in the middle of the Atlantic!”
But what really gets my goat is that the £147.50 isn’t the full cost of the train ride. No, in the last financial year running our railways was subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £4,199 million. GWR received 6.4p per kilometre. For a return trip to Paddington that works out at £23.89 – more than Megabus charge for the whole trip.
Why should I, who cannot afford train fares, pay taxes to subsidise the rail fares of people rich enough to travel by train? The whole point of privatisation was to bring the efficiency of the private sector to the nationalised industries. Yet British Rail only received £1,000 million a year in subsidy.
I say that rail fares should go up to cover the true cost of running them. Let those who think the damn things are so wonderful pay for them.
*Parkway to Paddington return 13th Nov 2018, includes £1.50 booking fee. **Bristol to London Victoria return, includes £1 booking fee.