/ Travel & Leisure

Your view: riled by rail fare rises?

Our Conversation on the cost of travel prompted some great comments – from the standard of service to the need to commute into central London and similar cities. So we’ve rounded up some of your best bits…

If you commute from an area serviced by one rail company, your choice on which train company to use is slim to none. Scott raised concerns over competition in the sector:

‘Most lines are operated by a single company, so there’s no competition to help regulate prices and improve quality of service. They know that passengers have no choice other than just not to use the train, which for most, is just not possible.’

Overcrowded and cancelled trains

DamnKnit Blast said that the cost of commuting would be easier to stomach if the service improved:

‘As well as increasing prices, we commuters are suffering a rapidly deteriorating standard of service. My 25 min journey is routinely 10 or 15 mins late, and massively overcrowded. Cancelled and short trains are the norm. The price increases would be much more palatable if the service was adequate.’

And Dave was less concerned about the cost of commuting but rather the additional costs incurred by parking at his local station:

‘For me, the biggest cost rise in commuting isn’t fares (because if you look at it subjectively, for commuters it’s quite a good price) it is car parking. This is land that has always been owned by the railway and the only improvement in many places has been the addition of an extra deck.’

Commuting culture

Which? Convo regulars John Ward, Wave Change, DieselTaylor and Malcolm discussed the idea of tackling commuter culture. Malcolm said:

‘It is lunacy to continue with commuter-congestion. We must in future think about distributing jobs more widely by giving incentives to companies to locate in regional towns (and disincentivised to locate or expand in London particularly). There are many places I would choose to live rather than the South East, with cheaper houses and shorter journeys.’

And Terfar asked if there could be another solution to the train network, achieving our Comment of the Week:

‘Are railways really the solution to commuting (really, who in the 21st Century would design a form of transport that uses trains weighing 100s of tons with steel wheels running on fixed steel tracks)? We need a 21st Century answer to the problems of twice daily mass commuting.’


I think Terfar is spot on with the comment about heavy trains. Perhaps use of modern engineering materials could produce relatively light weight and more streamlined trains fit for the 21st century.

Alternatively, with an avatar related to fantasy, Terfar may have teleportation in mind.

Phil says:
12 January 2014

A lightweight train will have less adhesion and consequently slower acceleration, longer braking distances and be more vulnerable to derailment. Crash worthiness would also suffer.

Railways are, in principle, very efficient ways of moving people and goods – in fuel efficiency, volume and speed. Weight gives traction and, since gradients are generally light and station distances considerable, not a real disadvantage. Where we fail is in taking too long to approve and order new designs, lack of standardisation and franchises that are not long enough to make long-term investment by the TOCs attractive.
We should invest money in upgrading existing routes with track, signalling, station extensions, rolling stock and integrating freight and road connections. Not in HS2 that will have limited use, an unsupported business case, and absorb far too much of our money and damage. the environment.

Heavy trains have more momentum, increasing stopping times, both in emergency and in routine use. Not all trains travel long distances and there is considerable opportunity to follow the examples of cities that have used existing and new lines to provide effective rapid transport systems that make frequent stops.

If we had stuck with steel wheels for road use we might be driving around in cars with cartwheels.

Steel wheels and steel rails are the key – designed to work together. Steel wheels on paved roads were not – tram cars were efficient except thay do not mix well with conventional traffic. Rapid transit with lighter vehicles on lighter track is a good solution within towns, just as is an underground system. The engineering is well proven. Having rubber-tyred 4 seater vehicles that stop and start, emit fumes, carry one person and require acres of space tp park are hardly a sensible commuting solution.
Bikes are fine for short distances on flat land in the dry. A question – should they be registered, insured and pay road tax? What happens when they cause accidents – do you have to sue them (assuming you can identify them)?

Phil says:
12 January 2014

“If we had stuck with steel wheels for road use we might be driving around in cars with cartwheels.”

I used to travel over ten miles to school every day, most of that by Trolleybus: high capacity, comfortable, fast, good acceleration, regenerative braking, no [local] emissions and almost silent. If only that technology had been progressively developed and eventually equipped with disabled access, GPS tracking, computer controlled junctions, on-board audio/visual information systems, and proximity-card payment systems. For large metropolitan areas where commuting distances are longer the frequency of stops and traffic congestion make road-based systems unsuitable so a track-based system is better.