Thursday, 29 November 2007

“I’m on the train!”

Durham Cathedral (not quite the view from the train!)

Writing from the train again – so far this morning it’s quite quiet, but then this is not the early morning commuter service which I usually travel on. I’m feeling pretty indignant about trains nonetheless, since it has just been announced that fares will go up in January, and more than the rate of inflation. That will take a saver return between Berwick and London to over £100. And that’s only the beginning: fares on this line are set to rise 15% over inflation in the next seven years. No wonder people fly. A new runway is proposed for Edinburgh or Glasgow to cope with domestic flights, although train travel is vastly better for the environment. Yet upgrading the railway so that trains can travel at high speed for the whole of their journey is not a priority. As usual, we seem to be paying lip service to energy savings, in case the government loses votes by restricting people’s freedom to pollute.

Selfishly, of course, I don’t want people to travel by train. Well, I want numbers great enough to keep the level of service as it is, while not so many that trains are significantly busier. I have almost entirely given up travelling standard class. The seats are too uncomfortable, the carriages are so crowded that the proximity to your neighbour is almost unbearable. First Great Western, on which I travel regularly, has new rolling stock. More seats than ever have been crammed in, so that it’s like travelling by bus – there is no room to breathe, it seems, let alone wriggle. These days my travel habits are exacting: I book as far in advance as possible and always travel on the train booked, so that I can buy cheap first class tickets. Yet despite calculating everything to the last detail so that I can book the instant tickets are released, I can almost never get the cheapest option. But at least my dodgy hip is made no worse by a 3-hour plus journey, and I can get a significant amount of work done (or, in this case, play).

There, a train rant and I didn’t mention mobile phones once!


Anonymous said...

Sometimes my medical condition which makes travelling almost impossible can seem like a blessing and when I hear what has become of train travel is one of those times. I used to love hopping round the country by train, often almost every other weekend. Now it sounds as though that would be a punishment rather than part of the pleasure of the outing.

Anonymous said...

For some reason I can no only post through a google account and the post above has come up under my old one. It's me!!!! Ann In future I'll have to post as Table Talk, but it will still be me.

GeraniumCat said...

You're most welcome under any name, Ann! I always loved travelling by train, my best ever journey was across Canada, but now I can find it very stressful. Not as much as air travel though - last winter I went to Madrid for 2 days for work. I got off the plane knowing my blood pressure had gone haywire, and I didn't see Madrid at all!

Diary Farmer said...

It is a mystery why the rail fares have to be raised by such a large amount. It's no wonder some prefer to fly. D and I would very much like to travel across Canada by train but we'll settle for staying in Ontario next year!

GeraniumCat said...

DF, the cross Canada journey is an utterly sybaritic affair - breakfast in the observation car, canapes at dusk. I had a wonderful time, it wasn't really expensive (I'd have had to stay in a hotel for the 3 nights I instead spent on the train)and the scenery and wildlife were wonderful (and I'd have missed them if I'd just flown from city to city). I do recommend it if you ever get the chance.