i Editor's Letter: Train fares


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The Independent Online


Already addicted to i's email inbox, I am starting to enjoy the immediacy of hearing from you on twitter.com/stefanohat. The only problem is I'm becoming one of those sad people who walk about with their head permanently bowed to their iPhone.

On tonight's journey home from i's 400th-edition celebration at Mosi, in Manchester, we might hear from i readers we met only hours earlier. We really enjoy meeting you at these events. We garner insights from you, the consumers, that we, the producers, are too close to our product to see for ourselves.

I am happy that we are getting out of London once again, but – as a daily bus user, who rarely takes a train – I am shocked by the fares. The standard off-peak return sitting on my desk costs £74.20, and like any business these days, we have to watch our pennies. A couple of colleagues are staying to "do Manchester things" such as review a restaurant. (We need to do things like this to avoid being "Londoncentric"). The return trip for these journalists is at 7am tomorrow, because they want to get back in time to start work at a suitable hour on Thursday. The cost? £185. Each. How do such prices help keep people off our roads, or even keep the economy ticking over?

Readers often criticise national media for not covering "the regions", but many journalists feel equally frustrated that they are ever more deskbound, because rising travel costs meet with diminishing expenses budgets. This, coupled with fewer staff in the office, makes it even harder to let people out. This is detailed in Nick Davies's Flat Earth News, a book pilloried by much of our industry when it came out, but one I recommend to young people who want to be journalists.

Anyway, I've got a train to catch. See (some of) you in Manchester.