J.S.R. BridgesWhatlington Road, Battle
The recent furore over rail fare increases, while difficult for those who commute, has lacked a full perspective of the facts.
Britain’s railways were nationalised in 1948 and remained so until they were privatised in the mid 1990s.
The Beeching closures effected a substantial reduction in route miles and saw extensive station closures, all in the name of progress. In effect, during the period of nationalisation the railways underwent a long slow period of under investment and of managed decline.
Privatisation, while perhaps not as well managed as it may have been, nevertheless allowed a new entrepreneurial spirit with an unprecedented growth in passenger numbers, accompanied by extensive investment in infrastructure and rolling stock.
It must be remembered that our rail network was largely built in the Victorian era and needs to be made fit for modern needs.
This all has to be paid for and in a country which already has an eye-watering national debt, the idea that one simply borrows more and more money, as espoused by the Labour Party is neither responsible, sensible nor sustainable over the long term.
If one takes a figure of £5,000 often quoted as the cost an annual season ticket from Battle to London, this is indeed a significant amount of money. However, one wonders why nobody has considered the cost of commuting into central London by car in comparison.
The London Congestion Charge is £11.50 a day, if one paid that for say 48 weeks it would be £2760. Then if one adds the cost of fuel for a notional 100 mile daily return commute over the same period, at say 50mpg at the current quoted average price for a litre of petrol of £1.14 this would cost an additional £2481 over a 48 week period, thus allowing for holidays.
So far this gives us an approximate figure £5241 for a commute by road, to which must be added the wear and tear on the vehicle, one could also consider the cost of parking in London and it quickly becomes clear that the rail fare is perhaps not so unreasonable.
Rail is recognised as the safest form of travel, it is much quicker than commuting into London by car, even from East Sussex, and it is also rather more friendly to the environment.
Passengers on a train can read, relax, snooze or work, none of which the driver of a car can do.
Food for thought and reflection perhaps?