The other day there was a fare strike in the West Country. The issue seems to be the withdrawal of trains which has compounded the existing overcrowding caused by (you guessed it) fare control, leading to trains being so overcrowded that they can’t be boarded.
Strange isn’t it? You don’t seem to get these problems with coaches or aircraft. Now, I am not quite sure why it is. I think it is to do with the relatively small number of trainsets coupled with incompatibility problems. But it doesn’t really matter what the reasons are. The point is that it is just another black mark against not the rail industry but rail as an industry.
There’s a widespread belief that rail should be competing against road and air on a universal basis. That trains should climb every mountain, ford every stream. A lot of this is down to the belief that clean trains are in an unfair fight with dirty cars and planes. Now, if pollution costs were fully included in the price of every journey, things might be different but I doubt if they would be that different. And, anyway, trains pollute too.
The long and the short of it is that in just too many areas due to flexibility, reliability and cost, rail simply can’t compete - and so, shouldn’t. In the market for journeys ending or beginning in city centres, rail has a huge advantage and it is this market it should stick to.
As it happens I was travelling down on first Great Western only today - First Class! Not bad. In need of attention, but as I understand it, a refurb is planned. Not as good as Virgin.