We all love to moan about the railways. We can guarantee that commuters champion Metro will run at least 10 derogatory railway front page stories each year on slow news days but I ask the question, are they really that bad?
I commute from Leeds to Swindon 3 times a week. I spend 24 hours a week on trains which puts me in a decent place to comment. When it goes wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong. Railway undertakings do seem to lack the ability to deal with disruption. Often it is customer service rather then operations that is poor in disruption which is odd because surely a smiley face and some communication is easier then getting trains moving again when chaos strikes. Equally though when it is going well, it goes well. I couldn’t get from Swindon to Leeds by car any quicker or any cheaper (taking into account fuel and a % of other fixed and variable motoring costs). I travel in a mix of first and standard class and although I obviously prefer a cup of tea and East Coast’s robotic* customer service in first to standing to Grantham on a Friday evening peak in the vestibule in standard but whatever class or whatever disruption occurs I always get from A to B eventually. (*some would say rude, I prefer robotic. They must stick to their job brief to the letter even if they appear very rude and forthright. You can’t have a cup of tea if you got on at Doncaster if they are doing cups of tea for Newark passengers. It may no longer be British Rail but they are still smug jobsworths on the railway. A bad legacy of BR).
The railways create a huge paradox of opinion because the very things you want, you also don’t want!
When I’m stood in the armpit of a sweaty man on a Friday, I want more carriages. I don’t care they cost an arm and a leg and are only needed for journeys into the city between 0730 and 0830 , then out of the city at 1700 to sit unused on a depot the rest of the time.
Ok so I have my carriages but what’s this the price of my season ticket has gone up? This is a disgrace. Surely the Government should pick up the bill. It is a public service.
Ok so the Government have bought the extra carriages. What’s this. I’m paying extra tax, surely users should pay for extra carriages not tax payers.
It’s a vicious cycle.