You can’t fault rail fare increases, which commuter doesn’t want this luxury form of travel?

At least the rail companies make travel exciting and unpredictable as it should be

Share

There seems to be a lot of anger from commuters about the latest rise in rail prices, which is a shame as there is a logic to the pricing system, which is that rail companies must be planning to rebrand their services for the luxury market. Soon there will be adverts in Sunday magazines, next to the ones for cruises up the Nile, saying “For that trip of a lifetime you truly deserve, why not enjoy a majestic 36 minutes aboard the glorious 7.58 from Lewisham to Charing Cross. Marvel at the vistas of the celebrated industrial estate outside New Cross, and experience the splendour of being stuck outside London Bridge for an indefinite period for NO EXTRA CHARGE. A lifetime of memories for only £8,599.99.”

Foreign governments will soon issue warnings to their citizens who travel here, similar to those given to people planning to sail past Somalia. They’ll begin, “Travelling on a train is extremely hazardous. The local brigands employ a menacing ploy known as ‘peak time fares’. If you’re caught by these villains before 10.30 or between 3.15 and God knows when, they will demand hundreds of pounds that you have to pay if you ever want to see your loved ones again.”

In a couple of days we’ll find out that the passengers who’ve been rescued from that ship in the Antarctic were only on there as it was a cheaper way of getting from Hull to London than by using the East Coast Line.

The transport minister Stephen Hammond reassured us that yesterday’s rise was the lowest rise above inflation for the last few years, because “this government recognises the concerns that people have about rail fares”. So they’re boasting not that they’ve reduced the fares, or even that they’ve put them up by the same rate as everything else has gone up, but that the increase is not so much above inflation as it was all the other years.

To find a reason to brag in that statistic is genius. It’s like telling your neighbours, “You should be grateful. This year when I p***ed through your letterbox, the puddle I left was a smaller increase in volume over the previous year’s puddles than at any time since 2007.”

Thousands of commuters now pay more than £5,000 a year for their tickets, to travel such intergalactic distances as Basingstoke to Waterloo or Dover to Victoria. If the prices went up any more, the train companies would legally own the passengers. They’d be entitled to give you a new name and sell your children, and compel you to tend to Richard Branson’s livestock on a Sunday.

Despite the increases, the trains will continue to be packed, because those on board have no other way of getting to work. But rail executives must tell their AGM, “The 8.22 from Cheadle Hulme to Manchester Piccadilly has proved such a popular brand the passengers are prepared to be asphyxiated by the time they arrive. Well done, everyone.”

The Government claims the rises are valid, as there will soon be £16 billion of investment in the railways, and the extra fares will pay for that. So the investment that privatisation was supposed to ensure, can only happen if they take it off us in the first place. It’s like deciding that as your house needs decorating, the best way to pay for it is to invite burglars round to rob whatever they please, every year, in the hope that one day out of gratitude they buy you a pot of paint.

To be fair there is one area in which extra investment is evident. Over a billion pounds a year goes to dividends and written off debts for the rail companies, that didn’t receive anything before privatisation. So as they’ve invested in their shareholders, it can’t be long before they get round to investing in other less essential parts of the rail network, like trains and bits of track and stuff.

Rail fares in Britain were already more expensive than anywhere else in Europe, but like true champions the rail companies want to win by the widest margin possible. 

For example, a return ticket from London to Manchester in the morning costs £274. Charging these amounts may seem simple, but requires training staff to be able to say the words, “That will be £274” with a straight face. Many drop out, unable to complete the sentence without giggling or crying, or screaming, “You could hire the British Lions to drag you up the M6 in a bloody jacuzzi for cheaper than that”, but we should honour the tough souls who make it through, dedicated to attracting the investment we all depend on.   

But at least the rail companies make travel exciting and unpredictable, as it should be. If only it had always been run by people with this sense of adventure, Jules Verne’s novel would have begun, “Phileas Fogg stood at London Bridge in hearty spirits, eager to venture forth and commence his adventurous journey. ‘I wish for a carriage to Dover,’ he said. ‘That shall be £675 and 82 pence please,’ said the inspector. And so Phileas returned to his abode and spent 80 days looking for a fare he could afford on a baffling website, until he realised it was cheaper to lose his bet than get a ticket with Capital bloody Connect.”

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine