Thoughts on Trains, or, Why we Hate Trains...

On Monday 18th February, the Metro headline ‘Red Signal from Train Passengers’ (article by John Higginson) was hardly a surprising one. Let’s face it, trains are pretty rubbish. I know it’s wonderful that they’re available, they travel so quickly, the seats are usually comfortable and it’s possible to get a good deal. But just under two years ago I became ‘A COMMUTER’, and my view on trains changed for the worse.

Metro, 18.02.2013, article by John Higginson

I travel between Darlington (where my flat is) and York (where I go to university) between two and five days a week. It’s a 24 minute journey. I travel at a mixture of peak and off-peak times. And I have a 16-25 railcard. I book my trains the night before I travel, and I’m a standard class train passenger.

One issue is, of course, price. Some train tickets have faced price increases of around 4.2%, despite the fact that we travellers have seen very little visible change in the service we receive. Journeys of comparable distance vary radically in price. My daily journey can cost (for a return) anything between £3 and £20!! By booking online and being flexible with when I travel, I manage on about a £5-£6 return price, but if I forgot to book it would be a very different story. The fact that this one journey, with the same train company, can change so dramatically in price is, quite frankly, a farce.

I don’t want to sound like a goody-two-shoes, but I always buy a train ticket. There are so many people who don’t. It makes me so angry that most of us pay ridiculous prices, because the cost of being caught without a ticket is higher, yet I see and hear people on a regular basis making hour-long or more journeys without a ticket. I wonder why our prices are increasing…? Therefore, I feel slightly smug when my ticket is checked. The trouble is, it often isn’t checked. For the last few months, the ticket barriers at Darlington have not been used, and there are none at York. In one week, I travelled to York and back 4 times, and didn’t have a ticket checked once. There are plenty of better things I could have spent that money on…

Trains are also hugely over-crowded at rush hours. I know it’s not as simple as just adding a carriage, but something needs to be done. My friend came to stay with me a few months ago, whilst she was eight months pregnant. Travelling into York, we were forced to stand, until she nearly fainted and managed to persuade someone to give up a seat. On such a well-travelled route, that includes Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, you’d think someone would be bothering trying to find a solution to slightly increase passenger comfort.

I have one final point: if you’re going to put quiet coaches on the train, let’s make sure they stay quiet! These rules are rarely enforced. I’ve sat in quiet coaches with screaming babies, loud phone calls, and a group of teenagers playing their music without even the pretence of headphones. The train conductor walks through and completely turns a blind eye. If I were a businessperson, travelling home after a stressful day and had specifically requested a quiet coach because I couldn’t afford first class, I’d be fuming.

So here’s a crazy thought: if I’m going to be paying more and more for my train tickets, I want to see evidence of where that money has gone. Is that really so much to ask?


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