Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Railways a toy for the rich?

Yesterday, Phillip Hammond, Britain's Transport Minister, told a parliamentary committee reviewing questions on High Speed 2 (HS2) - the planned new high speed line between London and Birmingham, that "Uncomfortable fact number one is that the railway is already relatively a rich man's toy", this amazing statement adding to the common perception that rail fares are expensive, even unaffordable for the "common man".

Despite the media frenzy this statement caused, rail travel is so popular that it has increased 60% since privatisation in 1994, even though fares have increased above the level of inflation by almost 10% since then.

So, why do people bitch about poor value for money on the railways while they still flock to the trains every day? Basically it's because they don't know what value they are getting. Here are some thoughts:
  • Train travel is cheaper than motoring;
  • Trains on many routes are so popular that they are overcrowded;
  • Rail traffic has shot up over the last 12 months despite the recession;
  • Only 88% of people with free travel were satisfied they were getting value for money!
So why are fares increasing?  Because, in a free-market economy, they must. If trains are overcrowded, you put the fares up to reduce it so you don't have to buy more carriages and you can retain or increase your profits. And this has been going on for the last 15 years and it still works.  Come on, wake up at the back, it's a no-brainer.  

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't more value be added with on-site amenities? Like art, performance, shopping, etc.?

    I'm designing a transit station for an architectural competition and came across your site.