Thursday, 16 August 2012

Not me Guvnor

My 6%, your 6%, the national average of 6%... 

Train fares are all over the news at the moment: BBC are challenging it, Channel 4 seem opposed to it, Channel 5, well they've got some bird who works for the Daily Mail featuring, so that's the big news for them. 

Everyone seems to be angry. Bob Crowe is angry with the Train Operating Companies for having ga zillions of profit. The average Joe (me) seem to be torn between raging against the same machine and raging against the Government. The Conscientious objectors point out that we should all rage against the companies that lease the train carriages. 

"Who is to blame?", others cry. As Mavis from Corrie used to say: 'I don't reeeally knoooow'. Obviously. I'm but a mere commuter, with no insider knowledge on governance, train operators and the rest. But the more people they claim are responsible, the more diluted the message. And the less likely any action is to succeed. Same old story, rumbling on ... 

All I do know for certain is this: 

- I go to a South West Trains vendor, cross their palm with silver and get a ticket to travel. 
- From January 1st 2012, I was made to pay 6% more for the pleasure - I started keeping a diary of delays, problems, service etc. 
- You can see from this blog what the service is like, but that's anecdotal evidence, so who will listen to that? 
- So here is a fact. A real fact, not manipulated for any gain or a figure massaged to make the service look either better or worse. 
- From 1st January - 1st August 2012. 20% of all my journeys on South West Trains have been delayed (5 mins or more) or cancelled. 
- From 1st January - 1st August 2012 I have recieved £0 of compensation 

Whoever is 'to blame', I pay my money in good faith to South West Trains. As I am being forced ('forced' because they have a monopoly and I have no other viable way of getting to London) to pay 6% more again from January 1st 2013, is it too much to expect that service should improve and compensation should be clearer and fairer? 

Apparently so.

1 comment:

  1. It's not too much to ask at all.

    The best part is that there have been at least 4 different articles blaming the train operators, the rolling stock providers, National Rail, and the Government, claiming each one is taking too much money as profit.

    Train Providers: Via cutting of services (running fewer trains, changing the type of cleaning, removing catering), staff redundancies, cutting back station opening times to the bare minimum required by law, confusing ticket pricing structures which incorporate Government guidance but include additional non-regulated fares to eke out additional profit, and, in more extreme cases, walking away from franchises (like First Group) denying the government almost £800 million in premiums (and, cynically, giving First Group more money to bid for the West Coast Line).

    Rolling Stock Providers: By locking in train providers to contractual upgrades, the Government effectively force them to purchase new rolling stock (this is no bad thing par se). However, it is alleged that Rolling Stock Providers overcharge (as there are effectively only 3 providers) meaning that more tax payer money that is strictly necessary is spent on trains.

    National Rail: An organization that many people have criticised, it's their responsibility to maintain rail infrastructure. This is expensive, but often necessary. However, serious rail accidents, project delays, and decisions on things like the wrong or inferior signalling upgrades have been held up as examples of waste and bad management, as too have been the compensation/bonus payments to directors in recent years.

    The Government: The cherry on the cake. Criticized for setting restrictions on rail providers which set minimum levels for fairs, schedules, station opening times, and accessibility targets that make rail travel more expensive, they should be ideally placed to solve the situation. Instead, the usual complacency is blamed for inaction, along with justifications like "things will get better if you pay more" ignoring the fact that things are better in other parts of the world where people already pay less.

    And so...

    Train operators blame the government for setting minimum fare levels ("It's not us Guv, it's them in power - we have to give them x pounds on regulated fares so we ain't running away with all the money"), while ignoring the fact that they mix in a myriad of unregulated fares to try and make more profit for themselves anyway, cut staff and services (to the minimum required levels, an old favourite tactic of Stagecoach, allegedly), and look for other cost savings that make people's lives miserable.

    The Government, of course, point the finger the other way.

    Same deal with the others.

    You have to admire it, really. We've created a system where no single point of responsibility can be singled out and fixed. It's always someone else's fault, and you can always create the numbers to prove it.

    Until, as a consumer, you get an itemized breakdown of where every single penny of the ticket you just bought is going to go, of course. Because, when that happens, you'll be able to see who's taking what of the pie, and if we are actually getting value for money.

    Which is why it wont happen.