Trying trains

          When I went to Wellingborough and back to make my contribution to the Corby by election, I was told to catch the 3.30pm outbound, and get the late train back after canvassing and giving a speech to a dinner.

           I was impressed by the refurbished St Pancras. The shopping centre there is good, and the old building has been stylishly restored and extended. If you want to buy gifts or have a coffee I can recommend it. It was altogether more difficult if you wished to be a train passenger on “national” routes.

           I walked the full length of the station to find the ticket office, as the more accessible part of the station is taken up by Eurostar facilities. I asked for ticket options and prices.  As this was a political visit I was of course paying for my own ticket.  I bought a first class return to Wellingborough, as the price they quoted for that  sounded very reasonable. I bought my ticket just before 3pm.

            I had to wait by the ticket office as the only indicator board I could see with train departure times and platform indications was near the ticket office. There was no board near the steps up to the train gates.  At around 3.15 they placed a platform number up for Wellingborough. I had to walk back down the station to find the stairs up to the national platforms, and then walk back to the gates which were directly above the ticket office. As the ticket I had bought seemed good value and stated on it it was a restricted ticket without having on it how it was restricted, I checked with the man at the platform gates. The last thing I wanted was to end up in the wrong carriage with the wrong ticket.  He told me the ticket I had been sold was not valid for the 3.30. I asked if I could pay him a supplement to travel. He said No. I asked if I could use it to travel standard class instead. He said No. He told me I had to walk all the way back to the ticket office to change the ticket. I was naturally concerned, as owing to the late posting of the platform number  I was running out of time.

                 I did as instructed. I queued at the ticket office where I had bought the ticket. The employee told me when I got to the window  that I could not change that ticket in that ticket office. I had to go round the corner to another ticket office!  I did so. There was another queue. Someone kindly let me ahead of them given the time constraint. I  got to the window and had to pay a supplement to travel on the 3.30. They issued me with a third ticket. (The original ticket was two tickets, an outbound and an inbound).  By running fast I just managed to get on the 3.30, having been at the station more than 30 minutes before its departure!  What a great start to a journey.

                  I also took the train to Durham to do Any Questions. The programme supplied me with a standard class single, and said they would drive me home, as the return time was after the last train. I was travelling from Reading to Darlington on the cross country service. The door to door time of my journey was a massive six hours and ten minutes.  That included a couple of taxis to travel around fifteen miles that the train could not offer. The return journey door to door by car was four hours forty minutes. The car was also more comfortable.

                 I was fortunate to have a seat reservation on the train, as it was crowded for much of the journey, with people having to stand. Whilst very few people wanted to go a long distance as I was doing, the train regularly  filled up to go one or two stops. That meant people standing for half an hour or more.

                   I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.

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147 Comments

  1. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Aren’t these, at least partly, drawbacks from having privatized competing trainservices? And now this is happening all over Europe, thanks to (too much) British influence on European affairs. :)

    ReplyNo – it used to be worse when the whole system was nationalised, now just the tracks and signals are nationalised.

    • Jerry
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      @JR: Even if you are correct it is a worst service than offered by the pre-nationalised railway companies though, whilst many would simply disagree with your statement about the BR era. The problem today is that the system is far to fragmented, one only needs to look at the T&C of an old BR era ticket and a current ticket from a current TOC – or worse, (accidentally) get on a service operated by the wrong TOC. and thus find your ticket is invalid…

      • Vanessa
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Our trains have got steadily worse now the EU are involved. We used to have winter and summer timetables – not any more – not allowed because the EU runs our timetables.

        I am sure they have a finger in everything else we grumble about.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          @Vanessa: “not any more – not allowed because the EU runs our timetables.

          Not heard of that, anyone case to point towards some do0cumentation, or is this another case of straight bananas?

        • Credible
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          My toast got burnt and pot plant died because of the EU.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          That is funny, in the Netherlands, public transport like trains runs it own timetables. Do you like blaming the EU for anything and everything?

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

            @PvL: “blaming the EU for anything and everything?

            Well it makes a change from the EU (at its supporters) thinking it can fix everything!

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t the East Coast service in public ownership?

  2. lifelogic
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    All pretty typical of train journeys. Whenever I take the train I nearly always regret it. Lack or flexibility, connection problems, last train/first train limitations, engineering works, poor information, complexity of ticketing and timetables, endless intrusive and pointless announcements, dirty facilities, poor or no catering and often cancelled at the last minute.

    They are not even energy efficient when all the staff, stations, track and occupancy is taken into account.

    But this government want to spend billions on them for train that will not even run for many years!

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      I caught Mark Harper MP, Minister of State for Immigration, on the Daily Politics yesterday taking about the new pending wave of EU inspired immigration.

      “The government is not in the business of speculative forecasts … a forecast is not sensible – too many variables” good to see he is on top of matters and all the planning needed for schools, the NHS, housing, social services, language services and the rest.

      I see, yet again, he is another Oxford PPE man (Brasenose) though from a Comp so probably rather brighter than the average, private school Oxford PPE, entrant.

      It is such a shame they do not take this ‘too many variables’ approach to global warming, where they seem so happy to waste billions on a religion. I know which prediction is far simpler to do with some accuracy and which is impossible. Such is politics.

      The “we do not know or estimate – too many variables” line will not hold for very long. Last time official predictions were about 1/35 of the true number were the incompetents who made the estimate fired – I rather doubt it.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        I also see some of these wind farms, that generate such tiny amounts of intermittent electricity, even have problems standing up, when the wind does blow. It looks rather expensive, doubtless all covered by the taxpayer in absurd subsidies as usual.

        • APL
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

          lifelogic: ” even have problems standing up, when the wind does blow.”

          That is just the ones on dry land, the ones at sea have had their working life exaggerated by ignoring the effects of the salt environment. Consequently, the maintenance budgets are grossly understated.

          I wonder if these ‘green’ blue? contracts are ‘cost plus’?

      • zorro
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        Pathetic isn’t it?…….So, what does he plan to do to make sure that there are adequate services in the face of an increased population…..perhaps 1/5ths of sweet FA, I may have overestimated with 2/5ths last time…..

        ‘Speculative forecasts’….so they are allowing the UK to undergo this change without having a clue or thought to the consequences…..He is being disingenuous with the ‘variables’, and I do not believe that he has not been given a reasonable assumption by intelligence officers.

        zorro

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      An attempt by BBC 1 to remind us of the dreadful 1953 East Coast floods (60 years ago) and try to link them to the global warming religion again this morning.
      There were 1,836 deaths in Holland, 307 people were killed in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex 19 were killed in Scotland and 28 were killed in West Flanders, Belgium.

      They clearly had nothing whatever to do with c02 and were caused by wind direction, a storm, a very high tide and low atmospheric pressure all combining at the wrong time. One can imagine what the BBC would do if this happened again, as well it might, should the combination be repeated.

      They would be going on about the AGW religion and C02 for months and months and months. It is nothing to do with real science it is driven by religion, politics, the BBC indoctrination agenda and tax payers money.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic, please go find a clue as to how both the commercial and subscription television industry is funded and what choices the consumer has as to how their money is used, clue, even those who have never owned a TV set in their lives still pay for both commercial and subscription TV. Your rants against politically correct or biased radio and television services would be a lot more convincing if you acknowledged the whole problem and not just used it as a means to rant against the BBC – ITV and Sky can be equally biased with regards to the AGW religion.

        • Edward
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          Jerry, three things you forget to allow for :-
          1 If I dont like the output of Sky I can cancel my monthly fee.
          2 In return for the compulsory nature of its licence fee, the charter of the BBC says it has to be balanced in its output and plainly the BBC has taken some biased postions on a number of political arguments.
          3 If I want to watch any freeview channels apart from the BBC ones I canot legally do this without paying my fee to the BBC

          • Jerry
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            @Edward: Sorry but how do I stop from paying the extra that is added on to my purchases to enable the manufactures or retail chains to advertise on such channels as Sky or ITV, which in turns funds (especially on BSkyB) their often biased broadcasting. What is more if I choose not to own (or use) a TV then I do not need to pay for a TVL and thus fund the BBC, I still end up funding Sky via my retail purchases though!

            Also the fact that you choose not to watch the BBC is irrelevant, owning a TV is like owning a car, one pays the VED but you might not actually use the car very often, might not use the motorways and how many of the nations A roads do most motorists used in any one year, in fact you might be a little old lady who only travels a few miles each week but still pays the full VED due.

            OK, so lets only pay for the TV we actually watch, lets make every channel subscription or PAYG, but than that will have real implications for companies like BSkyB and those that use the same business model, it would put an end to their “Channel Packages” and thus their entire current business model – mighty explain why BSkyB don’t join in the right wing obsession of trying to undermine the TVL fee…

            As I said, before ranting on about the BBC and its funding, go and actually find out how TV is actually funded!

          • Bob
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry
            ” how do I stop from paying the extra that is added on to my purchases “

            Once you have purchased your products as a consumer it’s entirely up to the manufacturer or retailer as to how they use their advertising spend.

            Do you have some kind of relationship with the BBC beyond being a License Fee payer?

          • Bazman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            Or going into a pub with SKY Sports and listening to TV /radio companies that rely on advertising revenue. The revenues are not distorted by political pressure? Oh really. Don’t buy the product and don’t go to that pub. Should I ask ever time?

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

            @Bob: Your constant rants against the BBC just make you look the biased one Bob, not the BBC.

            As I said, the TVL is no less ethical than any other tax, if people should -in your opinion- be given the choice if to pay the TVL then perhaps pacifists and members of the Green party and CND should be given the choice about paying a percentage of their taxes that would otherwise be spent by the MOD. Never mind the little old lady who has to pay her full VED even though her car does no more than 200 miles per year?

            Oh and as for your question, no, but do you have any connections (including being a customer) with any Murdoch or BSkyB company?

          • Bob
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry
            “Your constant rants against the BBC just make you look the biased one Bob, not the BBC.”

            Just the kind of puerile nonsense we’ve come to expect from you Jerry.

            In case you haven’t worked it out, I am not a multi-billion pound taxpayer funded public broadcasting organisation operating under a Royal Charter that requires me to be balanced and impartial, so I can be as biased as I wish.

            “…do you have any connections (including being a customer) with any Murdoch or BSkyB company?”

            No, I am precluded from subscribing to any broadcast TV services because I refuse to pay for a TV License to fund an organisation that harbours paedophiles, promotes false science and socialism.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: I will reply to your more lucid comments and leave the rants to others, if they wise to indulge you.

            I am not a multi-billion pound taxpayer funded public broadcasting organisation operating under a Royal Charter that requires me to be balanced and impartial, so I can be as biased as I wish.

            No but you seem to support a media company were one of its major shareholders (in the shape of another cross-media company) has been found to be biased on one of its TV channels that is available in the UK and other areas are suspected in indulging in activity that is currently either going through the courts or is still being investigated by the police.

            For your information Bob, all television channels should be unbiased in the UK, it is just a pity that Ofcom is a such a toothless tiger. Make any bias by the BBC look like a church garden party. It is funny how the those on the right always accuse the BBC of being socialist and biased to the left yet the those on the left accuse the BBC of being capitalist and biased to the right, rather suggests that the BBC manages to plough a straight farrow if they can upset both at the same time and with the same editorial content!

            I guess bias in in the eyes and ears of the beholder, just like love or hate is…

            No, I am precluded from subscribing to any broadcast TV services because I refuse to pay for a TV License

            Just like you would be excluded from using your car on the road if you failed to pay your VED, just as you be excluded (from the full state) pension if you failed to pay your NI, and if you failed to pay your income tax you would (eventually) be excluded from society on account of being accommodated within one of HMP’ establishments.

            As for being forced to pay for TV, perhaps you will support the calls for all sport and new films to removed from the BSkyB pay-wall, after all why should people be forced to pay to watch TV – ho-hum…

          • Bob
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

            @Jerry
            ” you would be excluded from using your car on the road if you failed to pay your VED, just as you be excluded (from the full state) pension if you failed to pay your NI”

            Why do you persist in trying to compare the BBC to the DVLA and the Dept of Work and Pensions. Are you trying to cloud the issue?

            What have the DVLA done which can be considered a breach of their responsibility to the public?
            +++

            ” those on the right always accuse the BBC of being socialist and biased to the left yet the those on the left accuse the BBC of being capitalist and biased to the right, rather suggests that the BBC manages to plough a straight farrow”

            Dream on. Even it’s own insiders have said that the BBC is biased, including Andrew Marr and Mark Thompson.

            Quote from Jane Garvey after Labour’s 1997 election victory
            “the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles – I will always remember that”

            “The idea of a tax on the ownership of a television belongs in the 1950s.
            Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?”

            Jeremy Paxman

            Sounds like the BBC staff don’t even agree with you, and they’re mostly Guardian reading card carrying members of the Labour Party.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: ” Again I will deal merely with the substance of your comment rather than the quantity of it.

            Why do you persist in trying to compare the BBC to the DVLA and the Dept of Work and Pensions. Are you trying to cloud the issue?

            What do you not understand, all are taxes, all are charged not on actual use but on a point of law, yes it is possible to opt-out of such taxes but by doing so you also opt-out of the benefit that exists upon paying the tax.

            What have the DVLA done which can be considered a breach of their responsibility to the public?

            As for a breach of responsibility (by which you seem to be having yet another rant against what you personally see ass BBC bias), sorry but this is a straw-man argument, it would be like someone refusing to pay their VED because they claim their favourite road is in disrepair, doesn’t go were they want it to or goes through an area with the wrong socail status! Come back when the little old lady who does 200 miles a year pays less for her VED than the self employed rep who does 20,000 mikes per year…

            But quite frankly, the fact that you needed to ask such questions proves that you either simply don’t have the ability to understand and follow a rational argument or you are simply on a crusade against the BBC and thus no comparison with either another tax or funding model will ever be accepted.

        • M.A.N
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          James Thompson admitted the bbc is biased towards the left. They borrow money from the eu, even though they have a guaranteed( legally extorted some might say) , funding stream. This contradicts thier charter of impartiality.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

            @M.A.N: “This contradicts thier [the BBC's] charter of impartiality.

            Would you be making the same suggestion if the BBC’s editorial policy was a copy of that used by FoxNews?

          • Bob
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry
            “Would you be making the same suggestion if the BBC’s editorial policy was a copy of that used by FoxNews?”

            I’m pretty sure you would Jerry.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            @Bob: Actually I would, but then I wish that all media companies and outlets (broadcast and print) would drop their political agendas, let the political parties do their own bidding – just report the facts. Or are people really so stupid now that they can’t think for themselves and thus need to be told what to think and how to vote?…

        • Bob
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          @Jerry

          If it hadn’t been for the commercially funded ITV exposing Savile, the BBC would still be idolising him.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: Indeed but three words in reply; WMDs, Iraq, BBC…

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          ITV and Sky can indeed be equally biased but I do not have to pay for or watch them do I. Just as I do not have to buy books I dislike/disagree with. On the other hand with the BBC one does have to pay and it has a legal duty to be unbiased.

          It bias is huge, clear and comes out every single day. They are pro the EU, pro an ever bigger state, pro the green religion, anti science (other that for more women in science) and pro more regulation of everything and enforced “equality”.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

            Lifelogic, see my other reply to “Edward”, you do have to pay for them and you still pay for them even if you choose not to own/use a TV and thus pay the TVL, this is what I meant about finding out how the television industry is actually funded for before ranting on about the BBC and the TVL fee. Who do you think in the end pays for the very expensive adversing found on TV, including most if not all so called subscription channels?

          • Bazman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Yes you do have to pay and you have to pay for SKY even if you do not go to the pub or subscribe to their service. You are wrong and many of these channels say the same as the BBC as does much of the internet. You need to make a beenie hat and then you will be safe from the rays. Maybe…

          • Bazman
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            It will be interesting to see where all these anti BBC posters stand on future controversies when the BBC has been absorbed into technology like 1930′s radio. Sticky subjects such as net neutrality, traffic shaping, bandwidth limits, copyright and payments for, site blocking, ISP’s stopping certain functions of the internet and deliberately causing other features to malfunction and be restricted for all and certain users. A whole host of legal,moral arguments and grey areas are to come as technology marches on, some as yet unimagined and todays technology looking like that cats whisker radio.
            SKYNET Inc ©. will where all these anti BBC rebels will be. Corporate interests above all others. Make up you own reasons for choosing SKYNET Inc ©. Family, country, safe for children, job safe. Gets hacked occasionally by the left/ right nutcases, but needs to be more left/right anyway and why should it pay taxes as it exists in the ether and pays it’s bills etc. Yeah! Right. Ram it. Has that one finished already? Nice.

          • lifelogic
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

            Jerry – clearly if I do not watch the commercial channel I do not pay for the advertising as I am not even exposed to it. I do however have to pay the left wind pro eu, fake green anti science of the BBC.

            Most of the add seem to be for over priced life assurance (with a free pen), duff charities, and 4000% pay day loans – so the adds are not really aimed at people who think anyway.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            @lifelogic: “clearly if I do not watch the commercial channel I do not pay for the advertising as I am not even exposed to it.

            Err, you really don’t seem to have the first idea on any of this do you, the clue is in the name give to it by the Act of Parliament back in 1954, – Commercial Television! :(

            Lifelogic, you pay for it via your day-to-day purchases, for example, buy a tin of Heinz baked-beans or soup and you are paying for Heinz products to be advertised on commercial (& now subscription) TV, shop in Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s and you are paying for the supermarkets to advertised on commercial (& now subscription) TV.

            Before Ch4 came along, and thus advertising revenue started to become diluted, it wasn’t said that ITV had a licence to print money for no reason, not only could the ITV separate companies pay the ‘talent’ (the Stars) more than the BBC did but also paid their engineering and studio staff more, I could go on but this has already gone way off topic…

    • Jerry
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      @Lifelogic: Funny how so many motorists will do just what you have done, criticise the railways for slow journeys, (pre-planned, thus pre-announced) engineering works, dirty station facilities etc. yet sit in traffic jams, suffer contra-flows and diversions, use poor and expensive motorway service stations without batting an eyelid, never mind complain…

      Reply: I do regularly complain about our nationalised monopoly road system, where there are too many disruptions.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        @JR: Wow, so King James nationalised the roads! – me thinks you are sometimes a little to quick to use the N word, perhaps you meant to say “The Queens Highways”?…

      • Bob
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        @Jerry

        If the government used the taxes stolen from motorists to improve the roads instead of subsidising the railways there wouldn’t be a problem. People would be able to get from door to door in comfort without having to queue for tickets or drag their luggage or shopping up and down dirty platforms and pick up nasty germs from other passengers.

        Just a thought.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          @Bob: Indeed, but then the time spend queuing for tickets would simply be spent in traffic jams, like so many people did when the railways were underfunded in the 1970s (and 1980s) but motorways and by-passes were (still) being build as if concrete and tarmac was going out of fashion like those 6″ trouser-flares and man-perms were…

          • Bob
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry
            ” the railways were underfunded in the 1970s”

            If the demand is not adequate to sustain rail transport then perhaps it should go the same way as HMV?

            or increase fares to reflect real cost?

            oh, and don’t forget that even electric trains depend on power from fossil fuels.

            - Spend the money collected from road users on the road network
            - Spend the money collected from rail users on the rail network

            No cross subsidy.
            See which one is most efficient.
            I suspect we would be laying tarmac over most of the railways in no time flat.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: Ask anyone with any understanding of transport (public or private) systems, rather than just personal or politically motivated “wish-lists”, and they will tell you that what is needed is a mix mode as no one type can do it all – an integrated transport system in other words, only the ignorant thinks that any one mode can do it all.

            You also seem to be under the miss-conception that railways only carry passengers on either long distance routes or lost making branch line services, if you really think that a fleet of HGVs could replace 3,000 tone stone or iron ore train for example then you are in the clouds, if you think that motor-coaches are going to replace thousands of 12 coach inner and outer suburban trains to and from of London each and every weekday you are in the clouds. Even companies like the Stobart Group (of Eddie Stobart fame), a traditional road haulage company, finds advantage in operating a rail-freight transportation division…

          • Bob
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry

            Then please explain how is it that the road network produces a huge financial surplus for the treasury and the railways need a subsidy to survive.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: “please explain how is it that the road network produces a huge financial surplus for the treasury

            Because the treasury sees road transport as a cash cow, time has long since passed since both FED and VED were ring fenced! Remove both fuel and vehicle excise duty from the equation and then tell me what would fund the road network if it wasn’t subsidy from general taxation – like it is in other countries…

          • Bob
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry

            Any numerate person can see that road pays for itself and rail doesn’t.

            If you take away the taxpayers subsidy from the railways, it’s customers would use road transport, including the Stobart Group.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: Any unbiased person will soon see that you are again using straw-man arguments, the roads only pay for themselves because the government places a tax on their use, remove these taxes and the roads would cost the exchequer money – from surplus to deficit at the stroke of a Chancellors pen…

            Companies like Stobart use rail because any sain person can understand that you can’t have one lorry, one driver, carrying anything up to 3,000 tones, they don’t even do that in Australia with their ‘road trains’, Bob please do feel free to find a clue rather than another rant of you must reply to this.

        • Bob
          Posted February 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

          @Jerry

          Your reply makes no sense at all.

          1. The roads more than pay for themselves.
          They yield a huge cash surplus for the treasury.

          So why do railways need to be subsidised?

          2. The only reason coal goes by rail is because rail freight is cheaper due to the taxpayer subsidy. It’s simple economics.
          On a level playing field road hauliers would get the business.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        The UK road system is dreadful suffering from the public transport is best religion for many years so under invested in. As are the service stations in general. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of journeys (of the distances typical in the UK) it is more comfortable, often cheaper, you can carry other goods and give people lifts, it is more flexible and it goes door to door.

        You cannot work as you go though (other than some thinking).

    • Bazman
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Here’s a paper on the energy efficiency of high speed trains. My motorcycle based idea that the power of the train would increase with the cube of its speed is in fact schoolboy and a common assumption. Not so it seems and the power consumption per passenger is surprisingly low given the speeds. Facts not fantasy. Ram it.
      This paper should present no problems for man of your scientific background lifelogic. Light reading in fact!
      http://www.uic.org/download.php/publication/526E.pdf

      • Bazman
        Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        How many BHP/KW to get the train to 310 mph on the old steel rails? About thirty one thousand BHP or 23 thousand KW should do it if it’s light enough..
        A Suzuki Hayabusa can pull 200 mph with 175 BHP in the right conditions. It would take a further 500+ BHP to push it another 50 mph within a reasonable distance. To make some sense of this amount of power and speed. How many asked for their money back from the Bugatti Veyron they were sold? 250mph may well be true, but how long to get there and where? The same could apply to high speed trains in this country.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        Bazman in the article to which you refer: Roger Kemp, a professor of engineering at the University of Lancaster seems to have it about right. If you take account of the connections, occupancy, tracks and stations too then planes and cars are rather more efficient – full & fuel efficient cars going directly door to door hugely so.

        • Bazman
          Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          It’s not just about fuel efficiency is it? I think you are just throwing this one in. You do not believe in energy efficiency anyway. It is about speed time and convenience as well as price. The idea that we could just pave over all the tracks or abolish trains and this would somehow improve transport is not real. Again I put it to you that you are for nuclear energy and massive subsidies, but not train subsides. Britain need infrastructure that works and there is many benefits to the economy of a train system. That train system needs to be paid for and not just by the passengers who are in effect at the moment getting a middle class transport system. Housing benefit is a massive subsidy for landlords and tenants. We should just abolish that? Does not benefit me directly in any any way and low interest rates cost me money so lets get them up too. I’m alright Jack.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I think the most sensible comment I can make is:

    Wear your trainers next time, and put your shoes in your case.

    Or

    Perhaps this is all part of governments secret keep fit and healthy project.

    Oh for the days of less choice but more sensible (transparent) pricing on many goods and services.
    Utility services are the same(confusing and complicated rates)
    Air fares not much better.
    Bank interest rates also, where you have to change accounts each year to gain the best deal.
    Your Tax returns then make you look like a money launderer, with so many accounts closed and new ones opened.

    Makes you wonder what they all think customer service means.

  4. MickC
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Yes, entirely agree with your comments.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    “I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.”
    But why should it?
    It gets subsidy anyway and the employees are employed anyway.
    All this would not have happened if you had gone by car or even by bus.

    It is the EU and the submissive local government (we still call it parliament!!!!) who think that railways are the coming age. I look forward to the refurbishment (cost £3 billion pounds) of the Grand Union Canal.

  6. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    As you correctly observe the train companies could do more.

    The first improved service could be to reduce the delay required before a refund is claimable. I do not know the timimgs but the operating companies receive compensation from rail track after a shorter delay than that which their passengers are allowed to claim. Where is the incentive to improve when tardiness is profitable?

    Secondly, instead of HS2 (an hour saving?) We should be putting our £32 Billion into double decker trains on routes that could benefit from it. Greater comfort and capacity would increase journeys, greater volumes reduce prices while increasing profit and driving demand. Win – win. The argument that other countries have high speed rail so we should too does not allow for us being a smaller land mass (with more people per square KM)

  7. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    This is what is neded to be upgraded not HS2.

  8. Andyvan
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Train are run as protected monopolies. They do not have to answer to their customers because the government sanctions them and gives them subsidies. Anywhere that is true you will see poor and expensive service. If a proper job had been done privatising them in the first place you would have a leaner, fitter and cheaper system.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Or no service.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        @Bazman: No necessarily so, the private pre-war railway companies closed very few services, most of those that were closed did so because no one was actually using the service (and thus no one was inconvenienced!), more profitable services subsidised the less profitable.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

  9. Bob
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    “I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.”

    It surely could, but where is the incentive to do so? Demand exceeds supply.
    As you already stated, the train was full with standing room only, so they don’t need to attract any more customers.

  10. Alte Fritz
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Ticket pricing and use is opaque with most companies. For reasons mostly, I guess, to do with the economics of franchising, non inter city routes are invariably short on rolling stock. One of my complaints about overcrowding and the dangers it posed in the event of an accident was answered with the assertion that there was no evidence that passengers suffered worse injuries on over crowded trains in the event of a mishap.

    I would be interested to know how longer franchises in exchange for no government support for franchisees would work.

  11. Electro-Kevin
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    “I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.”

    Yes.

    I’m sincerely sorry to hear of experiences like this.

    There are many ways that improvements which could be made to systems. There are wide differences in the quality of service offered by individuals in particular. Some have an innate sense of public service – others couldn’t give a stuff and have managers (and colleagues) pulling their hair out.

    On the issue of carriage provision and route availablity, it’s not just about ‘more money’ but that which is being spent on HS2 could be of far better use to the country being spent on the wider network – or on other areas of transport in the country. (Will the rolling stock be built in the UK ?)

  12. simon
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    To highlight the differences between your experience and a system which places the traveller first I would suggest you travel by rail in France or Germany. Your cheap ticket would probably seem expensive in comparison and your experience third world.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      simon

      Switzerland even better,

      • Jerry
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        @alan jutson: Except that you are, in the main, comparing apples and pears…

    • zorro
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Switzerland and Germany both run excellent nationalised railway services at affordable prices. There is no valid reason why the UK cannot replicate this function.

      zorro

  13. Disaffected
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Another day another disaster. This seems to be Cameron’s strategy. Whether it be the same Gordon Brown economics, more EU, wasting taxpayers’ money on HS2, committing more troops to Mali, failing to respond to the Lib Dems over the boundary review (or failing collective responsibility). Osborne was correct when he said that they would be chatting around the shadow cabinet table in three years time.

    Cameron (and Osborn and Letwin) is a walking disaster for the Tory party. Unfortunately it has been left too late to do anything about it. The public have three pro European centre left socialist parties fighting for the same spot. Obvious choice: none of the above.

    • Bob
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      @Disaffected

      “Obvious choice: none of the above.”

      The obvious choice is UKIP if you want to see some sanity restored here.

      Considering things like pension black holes, tuition fees and the state of our hospitals, I’m wondering where the £12 billion p.a. is being found to give away in foreign aid donations.

      Are we borrowing and printing money only to give it away?

      • M.A.N
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Give this boy a cookie. Remember the boom? Good wasn’t it?. Well the government was there too, only it now wants you to repay both your own debt and the governments debt as well!. In other words it is incapable and unwilling to cut its cloth accordingly. QE is nothing more than a ruse for the government to pay its own deficit, to keep the show going, and to hell with the long term consequences for the country.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          @M.A.N: I think you will find that it is the bankers debt, true, it is now on the governments books…

    • uanime5
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Your forgot fixed term parliaments which resulted in MPs being more rebellious because the PM can’t threaten with suddenly calling an election.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        @uanime5: Not sure if that is entity true, for example if the LDs all crossed the floor of the house tonight there would be an election in March, hence why there has been little public (or perhaps even private) talk of using the Parliament Act to force through the Boundaries Review Bill.

        • sjb
          Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

          @Jerry

          What if all those Conservative MPs that say it is essential for the UK to leave the EU crossed the floor instead?

          Then perhaps the in/out decision would be made this year.

  14. oldtimer
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The only time I have used St Pancras is the catch the Eurostar service to Paris. I found it a confusing layout and the signage inadequate. St Gare, in Paris, was even more unsatisfactory when making the return journey. Most airline terminals I have used have been much better.

  15. frank salmon
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Surely all of us have similar stories. The trains are rubbish. When will politicians realise this and stop subsidising them? If we had some decent motorways…..
    visit http://www.transport-watch.co.uk to see how messed up trains are!

    • Bazman
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Another (dubious?-ed) site. Transport watch is Paul F Withrington, who runs this highly bias site from his house. The (opinions-ed) of one man no less. The clue is in ‘watch’ showing some sort of ideological axe to grind. His main idea is to tarmac over the roads and use more trucks. The funding is not clear, (words left out)

      Reply: Do you mean tarmac over railway lines to cretae more capacity?

  16. Richard1
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    What would be a good way of getting more competition into the railways? If they were subject to competition they could not get away with such service, as people would lose their jobs. Its all down to the people who work on it and the incentives they have.

    • Wilko
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      There are probably many ways of stimulating improvement. Passengers giving a score out of 5 would give some measure of performance. Subsidy level could be varied according to achievement. Better ideas are fairly easily found, but the prospect of something effective being implemented is often similar to the task of pushing water uphill, which stifles the notion of people suggesting better.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      There isn’t a way to get more competition without building competing sets of railways, each run by a different company. As long as all the ticket offices are run by the same company and there’s only one train available that goes to your destination at any one time there will be no competition.

      Also the private sector can survive even if they offer a poor service as long as their competitors offer an equally poor service.

      • Bob
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        @uanime5
        “There isn’t a way to get more competition”

        You could allow road based businesses like Stagecoach to compete, by removing the subsidy from the train operators and lowering fuel duty.

        • uanime5
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          That will only work if Stagecoach can get into the centre of London in the same amount of time it takes a train to get in.

        • Jerry
          Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

          @Bob: “You could allow road based businesses like Stagecoach to compete, by removing the subsidy from the train operators and lowering fuel duty.

          What marvellously muddled thinking, as usual, from Bob, remove one subsidy and replace it by another…

          • Bob
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry
            “remove one subsidy and replace it by another…”

            On the contrary Jerry, I never mentioned giving any subsidy to Stagecoach. You’re just making it up as usual.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: You want their fuel excise duty lowered, if that is not a subsidy then what is, or did you mean that you want an across-the-board lowering of vehicle fuel excise duty – the result of which, few would bother to take either train or coach, perhaps that is the intention (crank up the concrete mixers and bulldozers, evict those protesters, those new Motorways and by-passes are back on the agenda!)?…

            Oh and if this new motor-coach travel caught on, how long will it before we end up with the same sort of monopolies that exist on the railways and the deregulated local bus networks as buy-outs, mergers and consolidation occurs?

            Surely better to, leave the EU and thus save a shed load of money, that would allow us to both fund the railways as the public mass-transit system they really are and upgrade or build new roads for use by people who either dislike the railways or would find then impracticable for their journey requirements – and thus have a truly integrated transport system. Of course if we were more like France or Germany we could do all that, even without leaving the EU.

      • Richard1
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        I agree – private sector companies can survive giving a bad service so long as they don’t face competition. There are examples in other sectors, mainly utilities. I suspect there are ways to get competition into the railways even with one track – as on roads or airline routes. Not sure how to do it but competition must be the answer. State ownership of Network Rail is probably also part of the problem

        • uanime5
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

          Airlines have competition because you can have several airline companies arrive and depart from the same airport. Airlines can also enter hold patterns (flying around the airport) while they wait for clearance to land, without making it impossible for other planes to get past them.

          I guess if the trains were run like an airline then one company would own the station and all the train companies would have to enter an agreement with the station regarding when their trains could go to this station. Though the problem would be that unprofitable stations (few passengers) would get far fewer trains than more profitable areas, regardless of how many problems this caused.

  17. Mark
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    If you waited 20 years, you still couldn’t get to Durham or Darlington on HS2. The HS2 ticket to Leeds would cost more than a flight – and it would still be heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

    • Bob
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      “If you waited 20 years, you still couldn’t get to Durham or Darlington on HS2. The HS2 ticket to Leeds would cost more than a flight – and it would still be heavily subsidised by taxpayers.”

      This is ridiculous MR Redwood, what will it take to make the Prime Minister come to his senses? He should be put on trial for misuse of public funds.

  18. Jerry
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.

    John, what are you complaining about, your lot botched the privatisation of BR in the 1990s! What do you not understand, with the current franchise system no TOC is going to do any more than the minimum they can get away with – that is, the minimum to retain their franchise and shareholders, not the minimum to keep their (largely captive) passengers happy…

    I would never expect any on the political right to ever contemplate the renationalisation of the railway system but perhaps the time has come for some consolidation, considering the farcical situation within the DfT regarding franchise bids -more bad PR today I see, perhaps it is time to return the railways to a more integrated network similar to the pre WW2 “Big Four” (and thus responsible for their own track, stations, passenger and freight operations)?

    Reply : It seems to me we need more competition, not less. Today’s train servcies are betteand more used than the old BR ones were in the 1970s and 1980s.

    • yulwaymartyn
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      How can you possibly have more competition when the infrastructure costs are so high. Who on earth would want to do it.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Thats assuming competition is the reason for increased to number of passengers. I suspect not…

    • Iain Gill
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      It seems to me we need a lot more competition in health provision too.

      I am looking forward to some sensible politician taking on the vested interests of the national failure that is the nhs!

      • uanime5
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Would these be politicians with vested interests in private healthcare providers?

        • Credible
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          Indeed

    • Jerry
      Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      @JR reply: “ It seems to me we need more competition, not less.

      Were are the extra train (running line) capacity going to come from, were are the extra platforms going to come from, how are you proposing to allow one train to overtake another unless it is either written into the working timetable or sanctioned by traffic control dept.? Very easy to say, just add more more competition, very difficult to actually do.

      Whilst people complain about dirty carpets or uncomfortable seats most people are more concerned with the time of departure and time of arrival (hence why people are prepared to stand rather than wait for a later service), and because two trains can’t occupy the same piece of track one train will always have to follow the previous, one will leave later and arrive later, so unless the problems posed above can be solved how is this having “more competition” – having more competition is not the same as having more TOCs, nor does it remove any monopolies were it’s next to impossible to have more than one TOC providing the service.

      Today’s train services are betteand more used than the old BR ones were in the 1970s and 1980s.

      Well yes and no, the countries demographics have changed enormously since the 1970s, if BR was still running the trains then the same would be the case I suspect (assuming that BR was being funded to the same extent as the subsidies etc. to the TOCs are being provided now), and whilst it is also true that many more season ticket/regular commuters are using the trains how much of that business growth is because more people now need to travel further to work either because they have been priced out of the local housing market or because the work no longer exists in the locality. What I’m saying is, the grow that is attributed to the privatised railways system would likely have occurred anyway had BR still been in control.

  19. Ian Wragg
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Off topic, I hear from this mornings new Clarke, Mandleson and Alexander are starting a campaign to stay in the EU.
    These are the men who have been spectacularly wrong on all counts and they see fit to advise us how to vote.Maybe they are the BOO secret weapon.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      On topic – hope they de-rail !

  20. Wilko
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Some years ago, a scientist from Harwell went to a family holiday in Spain. On his return, a colleague asked his opinion of its quality. He replied: “The service varies between what the British tolerate and what the Germans insist upon”.

    The train experiences endured involved conforming to rules devised by incompetents who lack accountability. Regretfully, those of us who tolerate adverse regulations encourage the idiots who devise them to continue in their errant ways.

    Similar things happen in hospitals. Lost X-rays are treated with shrugged shoulders & re-takes, as if such errors were without consequence. Incompetence in running railways and other services is tantamount to theft. The EU is a major culprit, yet remains too widely tolerated.

    • yulwaymartyn
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Last line: completely ridiculous.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        The state of the cutlery on Concord was the main reason the service was withdrawn too.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Why? I think the EU is run by incompetents with no real accountability and too many people tolerate it.

        • yulwaymartyn
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          Really? Do you seriously think that everyone in the EU is incompetent?

          • Brian Tomkinson
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say everyone in the EU was incompetent, I said that those who run it are. Even they are competent at one thing though, which is destroying democracy and creating, without our consent, a totalitarian state. Too many people are tolerant of that abuse of power.

  21. David John Wilson
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Surely anyone purchasing a restricted ticket asks at the ticket office at the time of purchase what the restrictions are. It is not fair to blame the railway for your own inefficiencies.

    I assume that while you were travelling in your first class carriage you managed to do some work. You should thus deduct the hours of work from your travel time in both of the cases that you quote. This will show that the train journey is much more efficient than you are claiming. You could of course use a chauffer driven car but then you need to double the travel time and add any waiting time by the chauffer before making comparisons.

    Reply I think if you ask for a return to a place and are clearly intending to travel there and then they should sell you a ticket which works.

    • Jerry
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      @David John Wilson: “Surely anyone purchasing a restricted ticket asks at the ticket office at the time of purchase what the restrictions are. It is not fair to blame the railway for your own inefficiencies.

      Get real, if the ticket office is going to sell a ‘restricted’ ticket then it is for the ticket office to inform the customer what the restriction(s) are (do you realised just how many restriction there are in the fairs structure, which any might have applied), you would not accept that standard of service from a retailer selling televisions for example, you would soon be complaining if you were sold a cheap(er) TV only to get it home and find that it only works with a NTSC signal…

      The real question is though, why should their be any restriction in the first place, it’s not as though we are talking a private charter train or Pullman service here, just a (standard) return trip to Wellingborough!

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      The car journey back to Reading probably also had a return leg for the driver empty, so why not book a taxi from Reading to Durham, break, then return?

      Reply Because that is not the BBC policy.

  22. Robert Taggart
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Brilliant !…
    At last, one of the ‘political class’ can now understand (?) the anti-social nonsenses which plague us plebs when travelling by public transport – trains in particular.
    Question. Johnny, what will you do about it ?

  23. Leslie Singleton
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Good Morning–You are so right. My example is the last time I went on a sleeper to Scotland. Never mind the fact that they have closed the Motorrail (which always seemed packed to me but let that go), I bought a ticket (at the station) and after consideration of the two options I chose a cabin to myself (at some cost of course, but let that go too). The alternative was to share with a stranger presumably in one of those two-tier bunk-bed things and these days I doubt whether I could climb the ladder if the other chap had got there first and claimed the lower bunk. The clincher was that I was told (by the Ticket Office this is) that if I took the single cabin option I would be allowed to use the First Class Waiting Lounge till it was time to board. This was a huge plus to me as wandering around the forecourt for an indefinite time is no fun . This lounge was hard to find and when I did find it it was locked with an Answer Phone. You and your intelligent readers will readily guess that the woman on the other end of the phone had not heard that single cabin standard class passengers (which I think is what I was) are or were entitled to use her lounge and she wouldn’t open the door. Only after a lot of unpleasantness with me blocking the entrance to what became a queue and explaining to said queue the nature of my unhappiness did the woman condescend to phone the Ticket Office (a major task it seemed) and amid further argy bargy was I let in, and with a complete absence of good grace as if it were some sort of concession on her part to a troublesome hooligan. At one stage I encouraged the woman concerned to phone the (Transport?) Police when she threatened to do so. She never did. What a start to a few days fishing.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Unmoderated again? Sob!

  24. rick hamilton
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Anyone who has lived in Japan or perhaps Singapore will know what good service is. Unfortunately it is very rarely encountered in the UK. I would say bad service at high cost is the norm. People behind counters seem more interested in chatting to the person on the next till about their social life than paying attention to the customer who is paying their salary after all.
    Unless we train people to recognise that ‘ customer is king ‘ and giving the best service with enthusiam will keep their jobs, and the opposite will mean the boot and no references, we will have to put up with mediocrity. British people are just too tolerant for their own good. If you expect a high standard and complain loudly until you get it, and everybody does the same, service will be vastly improved.
    Don’t hold your breath though in this age of entitlements and grievance-mongering.

    • Bob
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      @rick hamilton
      “Unless we train people to recognise that ‘ customer is king ‘ and giving the best service with enthusiasm will keep their jobs, and the opposite will mean the boot and no references… “

      Followed by an employment tribunal where the employer will find that it’s not customer that’s “king”, but rather the employee.

    • Credible
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      The customer is not king. The customer is just that – a customer – who deserves a friendly, efficient and respectful service, but isn’t a king.
      Sometimes customers are very unreasonable.

      • Jerry
        Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        @Credible: “Sometimes customers are very unreasonable

        Sorry but that is a very unreasonable thing to say. The customer might not be a King but there are two things that those who work in any form of ‘retail’ always need to remember, the customer is always right, even when they are wrong (be polite), and that the customer pays the wages!

    • Wilko
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      During earlier times of Japan’s fast trains, TV reported that some platform staff were employed solely to push (specifically squash) excess passengers from the platform into carriages. At the time, London Underground train passengers complained that even cattle would be treated more considerately than they themselves were. The extent of the Japanese squashing shown on screen was much greater.

  25. yulwaymartyn
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I travelled to Edinburgh from London last week. All in all I thought it was a good trip although the carriage carpet was filthy.

    My only criticism was that I managed to catch the train because I spoke English and could hear the station announcements as the train I wanted to catch had disappeared from the information board. Our non English speaking European visitors and tourists would not have caught this train and would have had to have waited another hour.

    Shame that all that effort by the staff and all the infrastructure etc could have been undone by that lack of information.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      its interesting to compare

      1 the station annoucements
      2 the station displays
      3 plaform announced on national rail website (assumes you are carrying a suitable phone)
      4 tweets from train companys (need a suitable phone too)

      I find there is often significant differences.

      Also delays that the familiar can work out (such as the incomming train being delayed causing your outbound train to be delayed) are often not announced to those without the knowledge to work it out until the last minute etc.

      So much could be improved on the info given to passengers.

    • Bob
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      @yulwaymartyn
      ” I managed to catch the train because I spoke English “

      I find that the PA systems are usually so garbled, that they may as well be speaking Martian.

      • yulwaymartyn
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        fair point. actually this one was not loud enough. particularly when the sirens and ambulances are racing past.!

      • Jerry
        Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        @Bob: “I find that the PA systems are usually so garbled, that they may as well be speaking Martian.

        Perhaps the announcers need to use “BBC English”! :)

        Sorry, couldn’t resist…

        • Bob
          Posted February 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          @Jerry
          “Perhaps the announcers need to use “BBC English”! “

          BBC English is not what it was, mispronunciation is rife.
          Al Jazeera and Russia Today are setting better examples.

  26. Nicol Sinclair
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    Welcome to the real world under which we mere mortals have to survive.

    • Wilko
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Several commentators infer that MPs may be unaware of rail travel conditions. It seems more likely that they would be well aware, as most other users are. The failure is more to do with perpetual tolerance of the status quo, and inability or lack of willingness to bring about much-needed change. Some MPs may be at fault; probably not this one.

      UKIP seems to have a policy intention to re-introduce Pullman trains. Their standards reached near-excellence consistently. The prospect of UKIP obtaining power, implementing the service and matching the previous Pullman standards cost-efficiently involve a string of ‘ifs’ and unknown waiting times beyond potential users’ patience.

  27. Iain Gill
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes the train ticketing is far too complex. I have had even more ridiculous situations (on another train operator) e.g. holding the maximum price fully flexible 1st class ticket I was not allowed to sit in one of the first class carriages as “this is for regular travellers on this route”. Really if you pay top whack for the most expensive ticket available you really ought to be able to sit in any non-reserved seats.

    As for your journey yep cross-country services are rubbish and expensive Reading to Newcastle and similar, for a few reasons. For one Virgin (when they were the franchise holder) bought unsuitable trains which were really designed for much shorter routes, mind there are even worse examples as they have similar trains doing Penzance to the top of Scotland! Also lack of capacity on the line leads to over crowding (although nothing compared to some other routes, try Taunton/Exeter/Bristol/etc if you want to see real out of control over crowding).

    For the journey you did to Durham or Darlington I would have engineered my day to be using the East Coast mainline from Kings Cross either on East Coast (still nationalised) or Grand Central. And used First Not So Great Western to get to Paddington to achieve that if starting from Reading. East Coast and Grand Central are pretty good on the whole (although don’t use their out of hours Indian call centres!).

    Since you’re on a downer on trains I think it would be a bit fairer if you were to balance it a bit by experiencing some of the great train services in this country. The sleeper trains to Scotland are great, the staff are really friendly, and they deserve a lot more praise. They are heavily subsidised though, although I have seen some good articles about how to make the next generation profitable in the train enthusiast mags (got a son) which I wonder if any politicians read. Also services like Fort William to Malaig are first rate, Inverness to Kyle is great, etc. You need to find some train services you can praise : )

  28. Jon Burgess
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    How to improve the railways? Make it the only means of travel for MPs where they can get reimbursement from the tax payer. Things just might get better then.

  29. uanime5
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    It seems that the privitisation cannot make an industry more efficient if there’s no competition (it’s not like you can buy tickets from another company or take another train).

    In other news councils are planning to reduce the council tax reductions for people working in low paid jobs to save money. So it’s just one more way that working doesn’t pay. Also those claiming benefits will have benefit deductions if they have empty bedrooms in their property, even if they’re working and there’s no nearby smaller properties they can move into.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-poll-tax-blow-for-uks-poorest-8473963.html

    • Bob
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      @uanime5
      “councils are planning to reduce the council tax reductions for people working in low paid jobs to save money.”

      This is to stop bedroom blockers and make space for the larger families that are beginning to settle in the UK, otherwise you’ll have a little old widow who’s paid tax and rent all her life occupying a three bedroom house after she has raised her family there, while an immigrant family with ten kids are living five to a room in a two bed flat.

      It doesn’t matter if the widow’s grandchildren want to come up from London and visit her at weekends or holidays, they can just check in to the a local B&B.

      • Jerry
        Posted February 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Bob, you seem to be a little confused, the part your quoted was actually talking about the removal of Council Tax Benefit yet you are talking about “Bedroom Tax”.

        • Bob
          Posted February 3, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

          @Jerry
          “you seem to be a little confused, the part your quoted was actually talking about the removal of Council Tax Benefit yet you are talking about “Bedroom Tax”.”

          It’s not me that’s confused Jerry.

          It’s a reduction of Council Tax discount given to people who are deemed to have more rooms than they need, and Labour have dubbed it as a “Bedroom Tax”.

          Okay now?

          • Jerry
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

            @Bob: “It’s not me that’s confused Jerry.

            Sorry Bob but you are totally wrong, you are confusing two totally different benefits, no surprise there though I suppose…

            Housing benefit is not the same as council tax benefit, HB is paid only to those who are living in the rented sector, it pays the rent for them and can not be claimed by those living in their own properties. This is the benefit that you are talking about.

            Council Tax Benefit is (or was) a benefit that paid the full council tax for those on JSA or a pro-rata rate for those on in work (income based) benefits – this is changing, claimants will now have to pay (up to) 20% of their CT bill from April. This is the benefit that “uanime5″ is talking about and what you quoted.

          • Bob
            Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

            I have to hand it to you Jerry, when it comes to splitting hairs, you’re the man.

          • Jerry
            Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

            Bob: It is not splitting hairs, these two benefits are totally different. But thanks again for showing up just how shallow your arguments and knowledge are!

          • Bob
            Posted February 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry

            Does it matter what you call it?

            A benefit is a benefit and a tax is a tax.

            One is paid by the taxpayer and the other is received from the taxpayer.

  30. Max Dunbar
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The attitude of some staff on the railways is reminiscent of the 1970s. A train journey a year ago from Glasgow to Edinburgh by Scotrail was very crowded. People had to stand. Shortly after the trip commenced a garbled message came out over the tannoy to say that we could use the first class section of the carriage which was almost empty. The only occupants were two Scotrail employees. There were still not enough seats. Older women had to stand. Neither of the Scotrail employees, a man and a woman, stood up to offer their seats to paying customers. The journey lasted some 50 minutes.

  31. Atlas
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Really the problem goes back to the way the Railways were privatized in the ’90s. Had the Railways been privatized so that the track, stations, etc, as well as the rolling stock were privatized then the new companies could stand a chance of revamping matters to give a good overall service on their patch. As it stands now, everybody is in a spiders web – pot of glue? – when it comes to changes.

  32. Credible
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    John,
    What are you going to do about it?
    You’ve previously said that you’ve talked to train companys but they have ignored you! They run monopolies, executives have 7 figure salaries, fares increase above inflation, commuters are standing, shareholders and profit are more important than customers and they seem to be accountable to nobody. That’s Tory privitisation for you!

  33. Jon
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Why should you have to go to another ticket office? I can understand a separate one for Eurostar but other than that it seems an expensive and troublesome way to do things for customers.

    A lot of this is down to lack of capacity at peak times due to the rise in population. It wasn’t managed and so many areas have been affected not just the trains. The pricing of tickets is to discourage people from travelling at peak times or to encourage people to use off peak times. There is a logic there but there are issues. I see families with children and grandparents having had a day out in London, very tired and then they are supposed to wait a couple of hours at the train station till after the peak time is over in the evening. Commuters pay over the odds in their prices to encourage day time travel by offsetting those tickets. Is that right? I can see both sides to the argument.

    What I don’t understand is why our system is so much more expensive to run than on the continent? This evening it looks like the RMT will go on another round of strike threats for more pay though that could also in part be down to TFL and their way of management.

    Thinking 20 years ahead I can see coaches being powered by onboad hydrogen power plants. No emissions and coaches are vastly cheaper than rail. If rail doesn’t get sorted some how then I can see it being more cost effective to turn over the London commuter rail arteries to road just for the coaches for commuters and freight. I understand that a typical £3000 rail ticket would cost under £1000 by coach. With journey times not much different if the rail lines were turned over to road and zero emissions the rail firms need to tighten up on the commuter routes or we will wonder why we have them.

  34. Wilko
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Inadequate rail information obstructs passengers in many ways. Some messages need a specialist in reverse-logic lateral thinking to be understood.

    A London Tube station, located preceding a split into dual branch lines, had a permanent plain blackboard affixed on its platform, enabling staff to inform passengers of changes. One evening, a chalked message on the blackboard read: “Trains to Oakwood cancelled”. People travelling on that branch were alarmed at the inconvenience of wasting part of the journey they had paid for, and having to find a bus route, a cab, or endure a long wet walk in darkness.

    On enquiring about options, a young man asked a member of station staff why the trains were cancelled. The staff member replied that no trains were cancelled. The young man then referred him to the blackboard message, stating that trains to Oakwood were cancelled. The staff member explained that there were no train times shown on the blackboard, so the sign was explicitly stating that none of the trains was cancelled!

    It emerged that, the person who wrote the message, intended it to be read as a heading, for a non-existent list. According to the station, passengers should understand the way they write such messages.

    According to that logic, a message on a door reading “staff only” without a list of tasks underneath it, means they do nothing. Perhaps they were right.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    If you are worried about scheduling on the trains, try being a customer (sorry, patient, your time has no value) of the NHS. We all know about the system with GP surgeries. You book an appointment with your own doctor and have to wait between three and seven days (on the last occasion, I was hospitalised before the appointment came up). The alternative is to get an appointment on the day that you phone but you have to take any doctor or even a nurse; if your illness has a history, that person doesn’t know it.

    Then you are admitted to a specialist hospital. You check in on the Monday “after 11 am” for a kidney biopsy, a purely investigative operation, on the Tuesday. You might think that a little imprecise but not half as imprecise as it turned out to be. On the Tuesday the doctors told me that my body fluid level was too high to do a biopsy, so I was put on a course of 4U2P pills. On the Wednesday, this continued and there were also cases admitted with higher clinical need than mine. The biopsy was actually carried out late on Thursday morning after a delay caused by a scan on my right leg that the doctors didn’t even know about. Then there was 6 hours of immobilisation. I was finally let out on the Friday morning.

    Do you know what is needed to provide a good, time responsive health service? 10% more doctor time, that’s all, part of which can be achieved by abolishing the European Working Time Directive for junior doctors. It could be financed by customer contributions quite easily. The NHS wastes too much money on drugs and doesn’t need any more low level hospital employees; they have enough. Buildings and technology are adequate.

    Put simply, if we were to get rid of the rule that health care must be free at the point of consumption, we could have a competitive health service within 10 years at most. Don’t waste the customer’s TIME.

  36. dpc
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    A great cause of wasted money and time , as well as contributing towards accidents is the appalling road signage in this country. If you are in your own locality then you can fi9nd your way adequately; further afield and you begin to encounter difficulties. At complex and important junctions place names which a redundantly been displayed for miles suddenly no longer exist at the crucial moment. Signs are too close to junctions in some places,causing abrupt lane changes with the possibility of accidents or jams occurring. Some signs actually obscure others. Tree growth is not cut back and obscures signs. Street names are at heights which make it almost impossible to read them when in a line of traffic. Inside bus lanes prevent drivers seeing essential directional signs when having to travel in outer lanes, as buses obscure everything. Too many distracting signs, too much information for drivers to cope with when watching out for other road users and pedestrians. The annual cost and time wasted runs into many billions. Local council traffic officers should be made to drive around other areas than their own and be asked to comment on the state of the signs in these areas. In many case very cheap and simple remedies involving relocation of signs would save much money; it need not all be done at once but a steady improvement would accrue. An added bonus would be less pollution arising from smoother, faster journeys. Insurance premiums would fall because of major and minor accident reduction. To improve the situation requires no great outlay and would, properly managed, cause on minor disruption.

  37. Derek Emery
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    The railways is basically a Victorian technology updated. The numbers of train systems produced in the world is too small to create real competition and innovation. In most parts of the world the costs of train systems and maintenance are so high that subsidies are required to bring down the costs to the customer to make rail travel feasible.

    By the time (mid 2020′s) that HS2 is running there will have been considerable innovation both in aircraft and vehicular travel such as cars where one of the strongest drives will be to reduce costs including energy use year on year and decade on decade. Additionally cars and lorries by the mid 2020s are likely to be moving towards computer rather than human control which will further reduce accident rates and costs. A computer will be a more efficient and economical driver than a human.

    This will translate to more competition for train travel and is likely to mean even larger subsides will be needed to keep up train passenger numbers.

  38. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Recently, I took a day return to Bristol. My local station, Hook, is one stop from Basingstoke. The train that I had targetted went via Salisbury and the day return fare was £28.80. Once the man behind the counter had issued it, he realised that he was meant to try to sell a more expensive ticket, for £45.50. This would have entitled me to travel via Reading. But I had intention of going anywhere near Reading (there were also return trains via Salisbury available). He even pursued me onto the platform demanding that I change my ticket. Naturally, I told him to get lost, and as expected there was absolutely nothing wrong with the ticket that I had bought.

  39. stred
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Talking to my relation doing business at Uni, I realised why you had to run so far to buy your ticket. It is the same reason that leads supermarkets to put essentials like bread at the back of store. To make you go past the sales opportunities. Airports do it too.

  40. Posted April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Why people still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world the whole
    thing is accessible on net?

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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