John Davies is a senior corporate partner at leading commercial law firm Thrings. Each month John addresses a topical news or business-related issue. This time John discusses the joys of British railways.
Remember the morning after Brexit? I sat there and shared a few thoughts about the results of the referendum vote, even throwing in a bit of poetry. Well, I write on the morning of November 9 2016 and Donald J Trump is President-elect of the United States of America. It’s massive. It’s bigger than his hair. I’ve decided it’s so huge that I haven’t got the will to reflect on it at the moment so I’m going to revert to type and have a rant. Brace yourself.
Why is it that this morning I can fly to Dublin, Madrid, Prague, Budapest or just about any other country in continental Europe (and one or two in Africa for that matter) for less dosh than it costs me to hop into a second class railway carriage in Cardiff, Bristol or Swindon and make my way up to London? I genuinely don’t understand the economics here. How can it be cheaper to cross countries and international waters than board a train and travel 70 miles down the tracks?
Not only that, if I do get on the plane, I’m guaranteed a seat. And I can buy a combo of coffee, a chocolate bar and a sandwich for £5.50! On the choo choo front I could easily shell out north of £150 and stand all way to London. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, but it’s not immediately obvious to me. It wouldn’t be so bad if the price of the ticket had some bearing on the anticipation or the enjoyment of the impending trip.
Back in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s, any travel involving a propeller or a jet was considered slightly exotic, mysterious, sexy even. At the very least it was exciting. But come on, do you get the same feeling lining up with the masses at Didcot Parkway or Newport? Do your knees quiver at the thought of changing at Birmingham New Street on the way to Manchester Piccadilly?
In fairness, when I was much younger British Rail used to run summer ‘Mystery Trips’ during school holidays. You’d buy a ticket with no idea about your destination, often spending the first half of the journey guessing where you were going as you headed down the coast. Would it be Weston-super-Mare or Torquay or Paignton?
But even that’s not quite the same as a snifter in departures and a race for the tiny loo when the seatbelt lights go off is it?
So come on people in train land. Either drop your prices to reflect the simple journey from A to B or add a bit of spice and make it an event. You could theme the trips to entertain the poor souls on the daily commute. Why not throw in a karaoke carriage? What about a meditation zone?
Whatever you do I hope it helps me understand why a train ticket which gets me part of the way to London (and forces me to hitchhike the rest of the way) costs the same as a flight to Porto.
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