Don’t moan so much

I know that it’s commonly believed that train fares in this county are confusing, but it is really necessary for us to be subjected to ‘interns’ moaning about the fact they can’t afford hundred-quid plus train fares when they’ve not done their research AND refuse to travel on a cheaper route?

I’m a commuter too. I know train travel is expensive and I know that having about £400 out of my wages each month feels insulting when I think hard enough about it. Even still, I get upset when I see people moaning in the media or wherever about the amount they pay for train travel because it’s just not that expensive.

Buying a ticket for £4,760 might seem a rip off but when you consider that for that money I’ll have travelled in excess of 17,700 miles (and most of them asleep, listening to a Radio 4 download or reading) it’s not actually that bad.

In fact, it’ll have cost about 27p per mile – far less when you consider I’ve not included the tube travel that’s included in the price nor any of the ‘leisure’ journeys I’ve made and the 3rd off other rail fares that I get too.

The railway is a cruel mistress, but she can’t be claimed of not rewarding you for commitment.

So I think I was rightly enraged when I read a blog by Georgia May on HuffPost UK last week. She’s an intern in London apparently, and she wrote that she and other young commuters like her would face losing their jobs because a discount offered by a Train Operator was being discontinued.

Georgia says she travels from Rugby to London for work. It was costing her £27 per day to travel and now, she says, it’ll cost £86 after the discount was removed. She also adds that she can’t afford to move to London because of expensive rents, so I’ll give her that at least: the girl needs to commute for the job she’s worked hard to get.

But all is not as it seems, because in fact she could cut her costs down to just £24 per day with a one-operator ticket or face an increase to just £32 per day with the ‘any permitted’ option. Both on 12-month tickets, granted, but they’re available to many more than they were (even Interns on zero hour contracts) with schemes like Commuter Club. I’ll admit to anyone that I’m not the best at maths, but neither of those figures sounds anything like £86 per day to me.

In fact, even going for ‘Advance’ tickets for specific trains up to 12 weeks in advance gets the costs down to about £64 a day. Still not close to the £86 walk-on fare being quoted, even if it still seems expensive.

Georgia is by no means alone in her feeling under attack by the removal of discounts and getting media attention for it, though.

South West Trains were under fire for not extending their summer ‘travel anywhere for £15’ offer to allow veterans to travel into London for VJ Day celebrations for cheap earlier in the month too.

South West Trains rightly said they’d not offered the promotion on that day as it’d lead to overcrowding, but still got accused of trying to profit at the expense of the vulnerable who needed to travel.

I’d like to have seen the press they’d have got for offering the promotion and running overcrowded trains all day long. I don’t think it would’ve been any better, and it might even have been worse.

For some reason when an offer or promotion starts, it seems to have become ‘nasty’ to remove it again and when someone says they can’t afford something it seems to be obligatory that it comes with undertones that they should be able to.

Running a railway isn’t cheap, and running one that didn’t get the investment it needed in the past is even worse.

Given that the railways cost us all so much to run (Network Rail has £38bn of debt alone), we should be pleased that the companies we’ve trusted to run them are doing their best to fill seats up by offering attractive deals and not getting upset that when they do, it works.

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