Oliver Duff

i Editor's Letter: Will 'third-class' trains take us back to the 50s?

 

Share

 

The magic of railway travel. Our trains do not deserve the uniformly bad press they receive – not quite. But yesterday’s breaking news headline appeared to offer promising material for satirists: “Third-Class rail travel to return”.

Back to the 50s! If you’re going to have to stand for 90 minutes anyway, then yes, it would be wonderful to pay less for the privilege. How, though, could we create truly “third-class” conditions on our already packed commuter trains? Perhaps imitate India’s “human pyramid” carriages, blanketed with hundreds of people? Would  passengers soon have to pay to use the mobile pit latrines that can pass as lavatories? Will those coffee kiosks at railway stations lease goats and chickens to rush-hour travellers, to help create a more authentic ambience?

The news was buried in Department for Transport bid papers for the imminent reprivatisation of the East Coast line from London to Aberdeen. Ministers like the idea of letting train operators enjoy similar flexibility to airlines in selling tickets. But the Department anxiously rushed out a denial last night, insisting that any new classification would be intermediate, existing between First Class and Standard (guaranteed seat, bit more legroom) – and that Standard class will not be allowed to deteriorate. The RMT union, represented through the excitable Bob Crow, argues that is tantamount to relegating Standard to Third Class – and that operators can’t be trusted not to run down Standard in pursuit of profit.

Rail travel in Britain should be more popular. Privatisation of our trains has improved the punctuality and quality of some services – but only at eye-watering cost to the public, through state subsidies and offensive ticket price rises. Until government gets a grip on the cost, we’re unlikely to see much of a revolution in our rail habits.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week