Train Robbery

Baroness Deech

I wonder if the day after the Games, when we are all supposedly basking in an afterglow, was specially chosen for the announcement that rail fares will rise by RPI plus 3%, that is over 6%.  The news certainly brought many down to earth with a bump.  Our fares are already the most expensive in Europe, and I expect our trains are also the most overcrowded, unpunctual and badly maintained (dirty, heating on in the summer and off in the winter), not to mention the lengthy struggle to get tickets at the station before being allowed on to the train.  I believe there is a strong case for more government, ie taxpayer subsidy for fares.  Train travel is not solely for the benefit of the passenger.  It benefits everybody by taking some traffic off the roads, by facilitating the movement of goods and by being there for all to use even if they prefer to use other modes of travel most of the time.  Rail travel therefore represents a fundamental service, the cost of which should be shared, like roads, schools and hospitals.  Moreover, placing this heavy extra cost on the passenger will have other effects, for example, people having to change or give up jobs because the cost of travel is too great; house prices affected in commuter areas because commuting is no longer worth it (while house prices in central cities are certainly not going to fall because of domestic and foreign demand); more drivers taking to the roads, and a disincentive to tourists.  Given the rise in the number of passengers over the last few years, one would have thought that the revenue had increased, without any obvious rise in expenditure on improving the trains. 

And as for getting a seat – the old tradition that it was good manners for children or young men to offer their seat to old ladies (like me) who can’t get one has gone.  On trains and the underground, I have perfected the technique of lurching into the seated and complaining until someone (usually non-British) does stand up for me.

16 comments for “Train Robbery

  1. Gareth Howell
    15/08/2012 at 10:53 am

    Our fares are already the most expensive in Europe, and I expect our trains are also the most overcrowded, unpunctual and badly maintained

    The different regional companies vary greatly in their provision of services. I use Great Western across to Bristol, and South West Trains up to town.

    GWR is the excellent service and business that is always was.

    SWT has a new computer system, to make more profit out of the customer, frequently has very ill trained staff, who are throughly rude, but to compensate a little has an updated rolling stock which takes a lot of beating.

    SWT runs a Dutch auction for tickets starting about three weeks before the due date of departure with the cheapest ticket
    until ticket purchase at the moment of departure or on board which may cost 3x as much as the one purchased 3 weeks before.

    They claim that they do not sell same day return tickets, and yet some tickets purchased as such do not get back to the return destination until the next day 10 hours later, for a 2 1/2 to 3 hours journey.

    Quite apart from the latter minor dishonesty, the use of the dutch auction in the way that they use it should be banned. It is not just slightly dishonest but THOROUGHLY dishonest, and in case the noble baroness, or any correspondent, reader is wondering how a company can be dishonest, it is known as CORPORATE DISHONESTY, thoroughgoing corporate dishonesty.

    They have threatened to ban me, if I make any more such public comments,so here it is.


    GWT representatives, on being asked about the policies of the other companies, in particular SWT ,remarked that

    “We do not behave in the same way at all.”

    They don’t, and they have honest fares to match.

  2. maude elwes
    15/08/2012 at 12:22 pm

    Trains here are the equivalent of some run down, tragic old, once great, country. And privatisation has made it much worse.

    You take your life in your hands on the trains in this country today. Yet, if you go to Europe what do you find? Well, what we, the downtrooden dregs of European society, would call lavish comfort and cleanliness all at a price a poor man can afford. Now why is that I wonder?

    Here, in this place we call home, the trains we had were such a comforting way to go. No wonder the British wish they could return to ‘the way we were.’

    If you take note you will see the passengers have white headrest at the back of their seat, and no, not just in first class. They also have a standard fit comfortable seat for their journey, and how clean it looks. What privilege we enjoyed.

    Now we are one step away from this and all at a price comparable to a seat on the Concord.

    And in Switzerland where they have all that snow on the lines.

    This obsession we have with ‘privatisation’ handed to companies at a knock down price, where people who have no idea how to run a railway, is crazy. And that is the reason we have such a poor quality, expensive train service. Money and not the passenger comes first.

    If we are looking for tourist satisfaction it is time we began to think ‘Nationalisation.’ The rest of the world who have spending money in their pocket dread coming to the UK. They say we are so backward when it comes to expectation of the modern traveller it is hardly worth the effort to go. In every sense.

  3. Lord Blagger
    15/08/2012 at 2:01 pm

    And it was much better under the state? Nope. It was crap.

    Slam doors. Trains over crowded. Trains not on time. Rude guards. Complete lack of funding. …

    My view. Lets call the unions bluff. They get the lot. All subsidies ended. They have to run and manage everything, including their pensions.

    We also put a cap on tickets, as they have requested.

    Job done.

    • Twm O'r Nant
      16/08/2012 at 1:57 pm

      the reason they changed from Salm doors to slide doors was that US citizens would come over and see who they could hit when getting off the trains.

      Gott’im! Ya! Lets’ try the next station too!
      Ya! Two in one day!

      That is certainly one good thing about the new rolling stock; you can’t open the door
      and jump out just because you think you are at the station,… and…. are…. not…..

  4. 15/08/2012 at 2:12 pm

    Let me add my voice to the chorus, too – Yes, nationalisation is needed – oh and some kind of simplification in fares would be good, too – say, a set amount per mile covered on a single adult ticket. ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’ (to lift a Lennon phrase) … but isn’t the one proven response to a recession building our way out of it? – So lets bring as many of the lines that were axed by Beeching in the 1960s back to life as we can, too … Who’s with me???

    • Lord Blagger
      16/08/2012 at 9:51 am

      Nationalisation = more b****rs with no trains paying for the rich to use trains on the cheap.

      Why should someone on min wage pay 3 grand a year for MPs and Peers to have a luxury train service to get them up north fast?

    • maude elwes
      16/08/2012 at 12:34 pm


      You have my total support on Nationalisation.

      And, Blagger, you think they run on time now? And are value for money, clean and comfortable? If so, when was the last time you got out of your car and on to the railway network?
      It is chaos. It is a laugh a minute. Here is an example.

      A friend of mine travelling on the London to Birmingham Virgin train was gasping for tea and a sandwich. He couldn’t wait for the trolly person to come to his carriage and offer him satisfaction, until finally he showed up.

      There was nothing on the trolly and he asked the chap where the sandwiches, etc., were. The reply, ‘Oh, we don’t have any Sir. Reply, ‘What do you mean you don’t have any, have you sold out?’ Trolly person, ‘No we didn’t have any to start with, nothing was deivered.’ Friend, ‘So why would you push that thing around offering snacks if you don’t have any?’ Reply, ‘To keep up apearances, Sir. We are required to offer this service as passengers expect it.’ And on it went from there.

      As I wrote above. The only answer is Nationalisation. Bring back the old system and soon. They are considered only a romantic dream now.

      Yes, they did have faults but nothing like the ridiclous set up we have now. With the cost having soared out of all proportion.

  5. Dave H
    15/08/2012 at 4:57 pm

    As a taxpayer who rarely uses trains, I object to having to pay for them and see that it’s reasonable for those who use the service to pay for it.

    As someone who likes trains and would use them on occasion, I look at prices and where possible will go by car instead, especially if I have to travel before 9am.

    Privatisation was a mistake, if it was going to be done at all, it should have made a company responsible for tracks, as well as trains so there was no argument about responsibility for a train being late or cancelled.

    • Lord Blagger
      16/08/2012 at 9:52 am

      Private or public, its very simple.

      Tickets pay for trains. Not taxpayers.

      No subsidies.

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    15/08/2012 at 6:14 pm

    SWT train guards threatened to strike during the London Olympics at Weymouth, at the end of their line.

    The logic of the strike was consistent.

    From Southampton onwards, more or less the end of the daily commuter zone, the passengers are considered generally to be explosive experts,
    who are intent on blowing the train to bits.

    Repeated notices on the intercom advertize this local tendency for the benfit of all passengers. By the time one gets to Poole, criminals and others have mounted the train to see if they can help with the damage, and the woman guard wears a “stab belt” to discourage marauders.

    I suspect that the main cause of the need for such a belt is the notices on the intercom from Southampton onwards.

    A very badly managed line, for the customer, with huge profits, getting fuller and fuller by the year.

    • maude elwes
      24/08/2012 at 12:51 pm


      My understanding is since privatisation subsidies to railways have increased by about 450% (Blagger take note) to £5billion a year. And they have a £12 million a year bonus scheme for top executives (of course they would). And this is all due to the ideological nonsense of the coalition which requires infrastructure, such as railways, to be based on the ‘private’ sector.

      Privatisation was adopted over common sense here in the UK and they thought it was a triumph for their pockets at the expense of the tax payer.

      Which has lead to franchise holders having no incentive to invest as they may later lose the required ‘license to steal’ a couple of years later. Remember Branson!

      As a result several European State railway systems, who plan sensibly for their future, and have good railways with affordable fares, now run the UK franchises whilst exporting the profits from our tax payers to keep their own fares lower and improve the quality of their own lines and services in their home countries.

      I tell you our government is filled with a bunch of self serving losers.

  7. Nazma FOURRE
    16/08/2012 at 1:17 am

    Dear Baroness,
    Gone are the treasured days, where life itself was a peaceful river whose prime concern seemed to be driven by an outstanding respect towards others owing to the good education of the young from both schools and parents, at that time.

    Unfortunately, time has changed and the world itself is a materialistic one where men have turned to be robots with no time to educate properly their children who are grown up as they are.

    Even in schools and colleges, their cursus is based mainly on academic subjects. No civism education program is found therein.

    To settle this problem, I think that a “moral science” program should be taught in all schools and colleges allowing young people to know the basic moral conducts to be adopted in a society.This “moral science” program should be able to enable them to think about their responsability towards others and how to behave properly in the society.
    Regarding busy parents who cannot for material reasons educate properly their children, a social worker from the ministry for child development could handle this role of educating and hence complementing the basic moral sciences education from their schools and colleges.
    Human nature is a complexed one and bad conduct in the range of young people does not only come from their unproper education but from their desperate a cry to be loved and cared for. Desperation is often one of the shadows of such a behaviour.

    Regarding the travel conditions , I think that if trains were regulated by the government and the railway system was a public one, this problem would be eradicated.

    The railway system if it becomes a public sector, will have the financial means, to contribute in the welfare and the security of passengers namely in the installation of both an air conditionner system, in summer and a heater in winter in all trains, the employment of train cleaners.,the recruitment of security patrol guards in trains and the link of a security camera with the security pole of the rail way system.
    I shall hopefully appreciate, if I might dear Baroness to ask you to propose a bill asking the government to buy the railway system in the name of the security and the welfare of the passengers.
    God bless the United Kingdom. God save the Queen and the Lords.
    Nazma FOURRE

  8. Princeps Senatus
    16/08/2012 at 8:25 am

    Dear Baroness Deech,
    Whiel I leave it to others to discuss the main thrust of your article about the railways, I’ll briefly respond to that last paragraph in your article about the culture of courtesy having gone in the railways.
    I no longer get up for either older people or for women, as it is interpreted as either a sexist or an ageist gesture. Courteous gestures are damned in this day and age and in my opinion, it is not worth getting into trouble for being nice. I do give my seat up for pregnant women and disbaled people and they have always been grateful for it.
    Besides, isn’t this the age of equality? Surely, chivalry, which was a counterbalance to inequality, ought to and has disappeared with the disappearance of inequality. It is a thought to ponder on.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      16/08/2012 at 11:36 am

      I’m really sorry that the offer of a seat is ever met with disdain on the grounds you mention. I am always extravagantly grateful when someone offers me their seat, in order to encourage them. Interesting point about equality. I guess we women do not yet have physical equality when it comes to strength. Note that there was strict separation of the sexes in all the Olympic sports on the ground that women are slower, weaker etc. I wouldn’t expect a wizened and wobbly old man to give me his seat. Good topic for the “Moral Maze” on radio4!

      • maude elwes
        17/08/2012 at 5:44 am

        There is far more to the rejection of chivalry than meets the eye.

        It stems from the political policy of women being ‘undeserving’ physically and emotionally as they must adhere to equality on every level. We are taught from very young that to expect gender ‘specialness’ or ‘difference’ is an insult to us as we are then considered powerless. And as a result of that indoctrination women or girls reject their physical make up.

        Which, is one of the reasons for the prevalence of anorexia. Girls often grow into despair at the physical change from child to woman. They greatly fear they will be unable to take on the heavy load expected of them and by refusing food will then ‘control’ that inevitable change and give them time to remain a child without having to face up to that ordeal. Which of course doesn’t work for as they grow older they are then are pounded with pictures of other anorexics or those with the bodies of young males being heralded as the beauties of our present fashion. They must not succumb to roundness of the female form. As they will soon be rejected if they do as that is ‘fat.’

        The natural female is rejected by political correctness on every level. And the idea that maternity leave, which those in that situation are shunned for expecting or taking, is not in any way compensation for the total denial that the sexes are fundamentally opposites.

        Hence the reason women have been programmed to deny their physical difference and to enjoy that difference by accepting offered gallantry is a betrayal of their equality. And somehow this has advanced into accusations of insult should anyone show respect toward them as female.

        The reality is, women and girls have been taught to despise their femininity. Which is very sad. As acknowledgement and acceptance of same is the very basis of their satisfaction.

  9. Twm O'r Nant
    19/08/2012 at 8:37 am

    And it was much better under the state? Nope. It was crap.

    Some of the staff are still members of the Union, and the drivers being secliuded as they are, nearly all are, but nationalisation has to entail unionisation for negotiation purposes.

    Whilst the Unions were the Fathers of the labour party, many of you would baulk at the idea of renewed power for the Old labour side!

    New Labour, and new labour policies do not have that much to do with unions, as such.

Comments are closed.