Train operators should play fair

Happy New Year! Today being our first working day of 2009, DJ and I were shocked to find snow covering our part of glorious Essex. In fact, DJ was just about to go to work before we realised! It was dark and we were half asleep so we hadn’t bothered to look outside.

It looks pretty – I took some snaps of our garden in the blizzard as the cat raced past me covered in snow – but I’m not keen on the stuff myself. I hate travelling in it – everything grinds to a halt – and I’m too chicken to drive in it. Incidentally our hens Molly and Lexi aren’t sold on it either. As you can see from my photo, they didn’t bother to come out this morning. Their drinking water was frozen too and I had to give it a good smash, although most of the cold water ended up on my bare hands which wasn’t fun.

I didn’t envy DJ travelling to work in the snow. He texted me to say his usual train arrived late with just a handful of carriages, despite the fact that he is travelling at a peak time into London, so he couldn’t get on. What fun. And yet the train companies have had the cheek to hike fares by up to 15 per cent this year around the UK.

Now I don’t like starting 2009 on a sour note, but this really makes me angry. Lots of people have no choice but to take the train to work and many face tough times financially. But the train companies make plenty of money. The major operators are enjoying strong profit growth right now and paying healthy dividends to shareholders. Not surprising considering DJ pays nearly £3,000 a year for his season ticket. So why could they not for once hold fares steady when their customers are struggling? I don’t know about you, but while our service is generally ok, I haven’t seen the cleanliness of the trains, the number of seats available, the journey times or punctuality improve by 15 per cent so why should we pay more? Somebody on a forum I browsed suggested we boycott the trains for a day to show our collective consumer power. While I love the idea, many people just wouldn’t have the choice.

Are you paying more for your train tickets? Do you think it’s justified? Leave a comment and let me know.

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18 Responses to Train operators should play fair

  1. Nik says:

    Wow – it looks like you got a lot more snow in whichever part of Essex you\’re in than we did in Broomfield, just outside Chelmsford. As a result, our chickens weren\’t too fazed by it. I agree with you about the train fares, though. We both travel up to London by train every day, and the service you get in return for what you pay is very poor.

  2. Tom says:

    Do they have a monolopy? Or if they don\’t are the alternate means of transportation even more expensive? If companies have pricing power they use it.

  3. Christine says:

    Hi Piper,Welcome to winter as it is supposed to be. I\’m glad to see that you don\’t drive in snow as you aren\’t confident. If only more people would do the same. There would be far less traffic trouble. I expect that DJ met the results of a plane hitting some power lines (some things the rail operators can\’t control you know) and another failure near Watford yesterday – trains in the wrong place. There were warnings of train delays on the radio news last night and early this morning. We are great believers in the radio travel news in our family. It has saved a lot of problems over the years. There is an annual complaint about the rises in fares – nowadays the passenger pays instead of the money coming out of general taxation. You must realise that there are failures among the train companies just like in any other business. The franchise on the east coast main line had to be taken over in emergency situation just over a year ago when GNER virtually went bust (and they were a major company) – it was nearly no trains from London to Edinburgh via a number of major cities. This is not the first time that this has happened but usually it is the smaller companies. One of the operators working into Waterloo (I think) lost its franchise in the days when I had to commute through London. Disliking the price rise is one thing (like disliking the rise in council tax or the price of bread), but actually putting your finger on reasons for why it should not happen is another matter. There is a national rail consumer watchdog – see – and it gives you a lot of advice about your rights and what you can do in some situations – – you may also have a local group that brings pressure to bear on your local operator. You used to be able to find out about this at your local station.

  4. mark says:

    i think the fares were too much in the first place,and they are taking advantage of the recession when they know people haven\’t got much money.for me,my wife and daughter to travel from rugby to newport on an open ticket it costs roughly £110. now it will probably cost a lot more, and it will affect us going to visit my mother as we cannot afford the new high fares. i think they are just being greedy,especially when sometimes you have to stand and it is a long time to stand when you have a young child they also charge too much for food and beverages when you are on the train.

  5. valerie says:

    I live were we have choice of the train and tram, I was getting a monthly train ticket which saved money but 9 months ago I changed to using the tram (or sardine canI but they do run more regularly than the train!) and I got a monthly ticket from a pay point shop which saved me just over £10 per month. My husband has a bus pass but still works and to save money we decided he would go to work on the train for half fare and he would come back on the tram for free (as long as its before 4pm) which means we saved even more. There are lots of ways to save. East midlands trains took over the local service in Nov 07 and as far as we can see its just a change of name , the service is still the same – poor, a singal carriage during peak times is unacceptable. With fuel going down in price, there is no reason for the prices to continue to go up.

  6. Simon says:

    It seems to me as a long suffering commuter that I get nowhere by complaining as I cannot get to the right people – would they take any notice anyway? I am surprised that the business world does not take a stance here – how much work time is lost by late or cancelled train services? If this was actually counted up and then charged to the rail companies it might make the rail companies sit up!

  7. piper says:

    That\’s a good point about the business world. Sometime ago some business people got together to complain about our airports so don\’t understand why they haven\’t done something similar about the trains. Maybe they\’ve all given up and taken to the roads!

  8. Unknown says:

    You don\’t pay the true cost of the travel! You are subsidised by the state, i.e taxpayers such as me, so the 15% hike goes towards reducing the subsidy. The recession doesn\’t mean people are paid less, just that there may be fewer commuters if they lose thier jobs. Those in work have probably had a pay rise, or will get one soon, albeit small, so why should the train operators cut their prices? It\’s not like a high street sale is it? It\’s called capitalism or what the market will bear. Wouldn\’t you charge as much as possible if it were your business?

  9. Michael Marc says:

    I think its really unacceptable,they want more money, but the service compared to other country in europe is really low.and the state and comfort of trains, bus and underground train is just not 21st century. It seems London is allways far beind compare to others when it comes to public transport. Please Mr Brown do something about it.grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  10. Jim says:

    Erm, sorry to be a killjoy, but the story above that is referenced is to a story that was published a year ago on 1 January 2008! OK, fare increases were still considerably more than inflation this year, but the fare increase for commuters was 6% this January, but 8% for commuters using Southern. See

  11. Kerri says:

    "The recession doesn\’t mean people are paid less, just that there may be fewer commuters if they lose thier jobs. Those in work have probably had a pay rise, or will get one soon, albeit small, so why should the train operators cut their prices?"Am I alone in suggesting this is a highly generalistic comment? I am lucky enough to have my job still in a company that is doing relatively well financially so far… but we have been told there will be no pay rise for anyone this year… so, although my wages are not being cut, with prices rising (apart from the cost of petrol at the moment), I am in effect being paid less than I was compared to the cost of living. I am sure I am not alone. Personally I don\’t use the train a lot but have seen no real improvement to services/trains since I commuted to Uni 10yrs ago. I do sympathise with those who are now facing 15% hikes in travel and not seeing any immediate benefit to servcies. Taxpayers money gets distributed to many services, some we use directly and some we don\’t. I\’m sure if it was a 15% hike in your tax rate some people would be a bit more understanding towards those who are not best pleased about the rise in rail fares. It\’s not about \’what the market will bear\’, many people have no choice other than to get the train to work – if they don\’t bow to the operators fare increases and buy their ticket, they can\’t get to work = no job…. that\’s not called capitalism, that\’s called being held to ransom.

  12. peter says:

    I believe we should have one of the worlds best rail networks…..BUT, having worked on the tracks for a number of years i know why us tax payers have to keep paying more & more but the service seems to get no better. Whilst working for a contractor we\’d turn up for a shutdown at around 11pm,IF we got the shutdown, (& thats a big IF),12 blokes would get on the track around 12.30 – 1.00 am.4 0r 5 0f us would do the work while the others looked busy doing sod all & on a VERY bad night,we\’d be on our way home by 3.00 pm. I was getting paid after tax 130.00 pound as a labourer.So,what was the tradesmen getting paid let alone the contractor who just made sure we were there.On most occasions 2 or 3 men could have done the job saving the rail companies a fortune.BUT NO,GREED IS THE NAME OF THE GAME & SO RAIL FARES WILL RISE & RISE & RISE & RISE……………..

  13. Steve says:

    Boycotting the railways seems an excellent idea. Once they start to lose money big time then they might sit up and take notice. Fortunately, I don\’t have to use trains very often and whilst they are generally punctual they are never clean. Considering that this is relatively new rolling stock it is quickly degenerating into the disgusting state of the old rolling stock. I know it\’s the people who make it dirty but charging extortionate prices isn\’t going to encourage anyone to feel kindly towards the train companies. Personally, I would prefer a basic service that gets me from a to b that is clean, functional & safe. Perhaps we should return to nationalisation particularly as there no opportunity for competition and therefore lower prices. In reality if they lowered prices they would probably get more people using the trains and ultimately their profits would still be favourable and have a better standing with the public in general, without whom they would have no business.

  14. CeeJay says:

    As I live in Grimsby we only have one track out of Lincolnshire and that means if we want to got anywhere we have to change at Doncaster no matter what so for only one live and basicallyonly one service why do we have to pay more for the worst rail transport system in the UK. For me to go by train to scarbrough Skegness i have to go to docaster and then to york and then all the way back again. the only place direct for us is Manchester airport. what a joke as I dont drive the train is the only way out. but i dont see why I should subsidise. the rest of the network cos thats what we are doing \’ I\’m sorry Steve boycotting the railways would only make them think they were doing ok not so many complaints.

  15. piper says:

    Oops, well spotted no name, you are quite right – I accidentally put the wrong link in but the figure of up to 15 per cent is still the same. Updated now!

  16. G says:

    The railways in this country are atrocious. Extortionate fares, frequent delays and cancellations, maintenance staff who are utterly incompetent and lazy… I\’m glad I hardly ever have cause to get on a train.

  17. Unknown says:

    "The railways in this country are atrocious. Extortionate fares, frequent delays and cancellations, maintenance staff who are utterly incompetent and lazy… I\’m glad I hardly ever have cause to get on a train". So how do you know what you say is true? You are just parroting whar you read in the press! GT

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