31 December 2007
Has rail travel improved?
Patrick Crozier

I see The Telegraph is asking if train travel has got better since 1997.  And the replies are filled with the usual complaints about delays, fare increases and overcrowding1.

For what it’s worth I think things have got a lot better in recent years - certainly in terms of the service.  Punctuality, cleanliness, customer information, lighting, the general state of the stations, ticket issuing all seem better.

A few weeks ago I even bought a Travelcard and took a tour round some of the lines round London just to check that we in the South West weren’t just receiving special treatment.  I found that things seemed to be vastly better everywhere I went3.

Of course, this is just my opinion and readers may well have their own.

My real beef is with the cost2.  Subsidy to the rail industry is estimated at £6bn.  In the last days of BR it was about £1.5bn.


1. Doesn’t it seem rather bizarre that we manage to get complaints about overcrowding and high prices?  My view is that in many cases fares are too low but there you go.

2. Oh, and seating

3. Or, still at the rare high standard of five years ago.


  1. In my opinion there just needs to be about twice as many services around peak time- the Didcot Parkway -> Paddington/Ealing Broadway services are always packed to the brim, especially in London- more local services running between stations in London would help dramatically with overcrowding.

    Posted by James Harrison on  31 December 2007 at 09:53 pm

  2. People will ALWAYS complain about cost.  Especially in an enterprise where they feel they can dictate costs which are set seemingly independently from expenses.  I don’t know if that is the case with your rail, but it’s definitely the case with US rail.

    Every single one is subsidized to the point where the fares are just political calculations about how much they want to charge.

    Posted by Highway on  31 December 2007 at 11:13 pm

  3. With rising world oil prices reflected in for what in the U.S. are high gasoline prices, Amtrak ridership is reaching all time records as many patrons find Amtrak more economical than driving.

    Of course Amtrak is cheaper (for some motorists with gas guzzling vehicles) than gas in many cases—the fares are heavily subsidized.  Whether Amtrak saves fuel over driving is anyone’s guess as Amtrak reports system averages that give a slight edge to the train but does not report on types of service (short-distance day trains, overnight sleeping car trains, and so on).

    Posted by Paul Milenkovic on  02 January 2008 at 09:49 am

  4. Wow, I’d be amazed if Amtrak was cheaper.  Last time I took Amtrak up to NYC, it was about 400 dollars per ticket, round trip.  From Baltimore.  For a special case, trip for fun, and not wanting to have a vehicle in NYC, it was worth it.  But overall, it takes a LOT of gas to make that worth it.

    Posted by Highway on  03 January 2008 at 10:14 am

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