Travel is a necessary evil of my job and having spent a number of years ploughing up and down the arterial motorways of England I have recently turned to public transport for the majority of my trips. One of the most noticeable aspects of using public transport is the prohibitive cost of it in comparison with travelling in my own car. Yes, there’s wear and tear to the car to consider but I still can’t help feeling that public transport is becoming the tool of the business user and the real Joe Public isn’t part of the equation.
Lets look at some examples:
I just booked a midweek return train ticket from Plymouth to Solihull. The cost: £86.
If I used a car and achieved a modest 30 miles per gallon on the motorways, this cost would enable me to drive 645 miles, (based on £4 per gallon). That’s a lot more than the 450 miles to Solihull. Score one for the car.
As well as the trains, I’m also a frequent domestic flier from Exeter to Leeds. Based on a weeks advance booking, I can get a return flight for about £100, (less for bookings further in the future). The equivalent train journey is £122.40 at the moment. For the train cost, I could drive my car 918 miles based on my £4 per gallon.
I know these are simplistic examples but I’m still having a hard time understanding how the train operators can justify these enormous fares. Isn’t it a goal of the government to promote public transport and get cars off our overburdened roads? I can take this further and rant on about the cost of buses: My eldest step-son gets a daily bus from Saltash College to our home; a distance of some 8 miles. The cost, £2.90. Next year my step-daughter will make the same trip, so doubling the daily cost to £5.80. The cost of carrying them both this distance in a car boils into insignificance!
I fail to see how anyone can justify these costs as there’s simply no way to justify them. No doubt there is some commercial aspect of running a train that explains it, but that doesn’t justify it. We the people elected a government who chose to sell off our transport assets to private companies. It seems that government has now driven public transport out of reach of the very public it’s name implies it serves. Perhaps it should be renamed business transport so the public can understand why they cannot afford to travel in anything other than their car.