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.