OBSERVER: Are our railway services on the right track?

Opinion
Opinion

Some weeks ago, a Mr Storry wrote comparing a flight to Berlin and taking a mid-morning rail trip from Boston to Kings Cross: the flight plus on-site car parking could have been less than half the rail fare. He asked for my comments.

Well, Mr Storry, I don’t think you need me to tell you what a minefield the UK rail system can be regarding fare prices. However, in the interests of trying to get a fair picture I took to the internet and regret I’m still unable to find an answer to what seems to be a ‘make it up as you go along’ fare culture!

A former colleague tells me that he can travel into Glasgow (a distance equivalent for him as that from Boston to Skegness) for £4.30 return – and gets the £1 car park charge back! The comparable fare to Skegness is £9.90. Admittedly there are two different rail companies involved but there doesn’t seem to be any sense, does there?

Of course it’s all down to the franchise system where rail companies put in bids to operate lines; if their bid is more than others, they get the franchise. But the rub is that if they then make a loss in running the service, they can get a subsidy, or a contribution, to their loss so that they don’t have to put up their fares. Mind you, it doesn’t seem to stop them putting the fares up anyway.

In the ‘good old days’ of British Rail you could travel anywhere in the country on one ticket, which you bought at your local station. There was none of this system where you may have to buy from different companies and have to make sure you travel on the ‘right’ line or face a hefty surcharge.

But the powers-that-be decided privatisation was the answer; franchises came into being to make it ‘cheaper’.

Rather ironic then that it is estimated the system today is much dearer than what it would have been if they had kept British Rail.

And now we can look forward to HS2; as many have already commented, just think what we could do in the country for the estimated expense on that!

Observer