Once upon a time, before the railways were privatised, if offered a job interview in London I could ask for the interview to take place at 2pm, catch the 7am train from Edinburgh Waverley, be certain that I would reach London King’s Cross before noon, and – with a pause only to make sure I had English banknotes in my wallet – get to the job interview usually with an hour to spare. I’d allow the full afternoon for the interview and catch an evening train home. It may seem strange to youngsters these days, but I could count absolutely on getting there on time with no delays at either end: and the train fare – even at short notice – didn’t require me to remortgage my house.
Those days are gone. Nowadays we pay high fares for bad service. The majority of us want the rail services renationalised, but instead, like a shiny toy to make us happy, Labour and Conservative governments have been dangling HS2 in front of us so that we can bat at that with our paws.
On Wednesday 20th May, Angus Robertson distributed jobs among the new SNP MPs. Drew Hendry became the SNP’s Transport spokesperson, and a few days later the Independent on Sunday contacted him to tell him there’d be no high-speed rail link between London and Edinburgh.
This is not news.
Christmas and New Year are a holiday season. For two days, the 25th and 26th of December, we enjoy an extra weekend, always granted on those days no matter where it falls in the week, so secure that even when those days fall on Saturday and Sunday, you get an extra two days off Monday and Tuesday.
But then, there are essential services, where people have to work – medical staff, care staff, other less visible services. We’d agree – right? – that someone who works on Christmas Day to provide essential services ought be compensated for it, that someone who works on Boxing Day should be earning a bit extra, that even if they’re getting an extra day’s leave to make up for the day they’re working, they ought also to get more pay for working a day when there’s a reduced shift, when most people are getting to relax with their families and friends.
And we’d agree – right? – that short of emergency, there ought to be an element of choice. If someone’s got to work on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, it ought to be because they’ve chosen to give up their holiday in favour of the extra pay. Everyone’s got a right to work, to be treated as a free worker, not as a machine.
I was on the train last night from Helensburgh to Waverley. By the time I got on, the train was more or less empty: I picked the nearest empty group of seats so that I could take the giant Eskimo coat of warmth off and was about to settle down to reading Darwin’s Watch and texting Kreetch, when I noticed something weird on the window for the seats opposite.
Taking a closer look, I realised that they didn’t just look like chocolates stuck to the window, they were chocolates that had been stuck on the window. Someone had taken five little moulded chocolates and fixed them on the window glass.
Today, George Osborne got into a first-class carriage in a train to Euston, with a standard-class ticket.
Everybody knows what’s happened to the trains since they were licensed to private companies: impenetrable rules, incomprehensible fares, crazy fees if you have to make a short-notice decision. It has nothing to do with any “true price” for the journey, only the vast amounts they can get away with if you have no choice. Let’s be honest, it’s extortion. A medieval landlord could name his own tithes if people had nowhere else to go and East Midlands Trains is clearly inspired by those happy days. – Victoria Coren
Unfortunately for him, Rachel Townsend, Granada Reports Correspondent, was on the train with an iPhone and not afraid to use it:
Very interesting train journey to Euston Chancellor George Osborne just got on at Wilmslow with a STANDARD ticket and he has sat in FIRST CLASS. His aide tells ticket collector he cannot possibly move and sit with the likes of us in standard class and requests he is allowed to remain in First Class. Ticket collector refuses #standoff – Digital Spy
George Osborne earns £134,565 a year as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
With 70 million people passing through every year, Heathrow Airport is full up. How we solve the problems facing the UK’s most vital gateway is an issue for the whole country, Scotland included. – Ruth Davidson, Best solution to Scotland’s air dilemma is third runway at Heathrow
Conservative politicians disregard global warming and climate change in much the same way as the Judas goat ignores the slaughterhouse employees with stun guns and knives. They know where their money comes from. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate change denialist body, is chaired by Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s Chancellor: they can’t be questioned directly about the sources of their funding, but some freedom of information requests about these anti-scientists interaction with government bodies can be found at WhatDoTheyKnow.
So it’s not surprising that Ruth Davidson, new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, should publicly favour a third runway at Heathrow. When Tim Yeo is demanding David Cameron prove he’s a man and not a mouse (mice don’t build runways), it’s turned into what Simon Jenkins inelegantly describes as “big willy politics” – will David Cameron prove he’s man enough to thrust the third runway into Heathrow despite a cross-party consensus against it? In circumstances like that, what’s surprising is not that Ruth Davidson wrote an article about her support for the third runway: it’s just odd she aimed for Scotland on Sunday instead of the Telegraph.
Why we’re still being taken for a ride by our train companies:
The great irony is that somehow all this mess hasn’t created that terrible a service. Anyone who thinks renationalisation is a silver bullet hasn’t spent six hours in the waiting room at a provincial station on the Continent with no air conditioning and nothing but the town lunatic’s thousand-yard-stare to keep you company; pretty much my summer of Interrailing in microcosm.
If you live in Edinburgh and get a job paid at minimum wage, you would need to work for four hours to buy your return rail ticket to Glasgow.
Actually, you would have to work for five hours, because you probably wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a £3000+ annual season ticket.
Travelling by bus will take at least half an hour more either way (an additional hour’s commute time) but cost about 75% less.
A petition to renationalise the railways got 12,194 signatures before it closed on 4th August this year.
Research by the Scottish Greens [Yes, they looked it up on the Internet and everything] has found that the current cost of a 12-month season ticket between Edinburgh and Glasgow (£3380) is more than the cost of a 12-month ticket that gives you unlimited travel across the whole of Germany’s 21,000 mile network (£3252/€3990). After today’s announcement, the cost of this season ticket is expected to rise by £142 in January.
Edinburgh Fringe: A Beginner’s Diary:
I fly. I know; so bourgeois. I don’t feel good about it, but it was half as expensive as the train, and I am very poor. It isn’t me that needs to change, you guys. IT’S THE SYSTEM. It takes 50 minutes, and is ludicrously easy. I feel like I can begin to understand why rich people are always such thoughtless dicks about things.
Theresa Villiers, who seems to be getting referred to as “Rail Minister” a lot – who knew we had one? – last year called these fare rises “difficult” decisions and blamed the budget deficit.
The rises are part of the government’s agenda to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of running the rail network.
There appears to be a steady delusion among Conservatives that if you pay taxes, you don’t travel by train.
Theresa Villiers, by the way, doesn’t seem to travel by train. Continue reading