Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Train price hikes all round

Every train operating company is subjecting we, the public who already provide massive subsidies to these privately owned companies through our taxes, to inflation-busting price rises. Simple economic theory of supply and demand would explain the rationale behind this - if every train is over-crowded, then demand must be outstripping supply therefore fares go up. But it's not that simple. The companies themselves control the supply, so all normal theories of supply and demand do not apply. For example, sticking a three-coach train on a route where a 4, 5 or even 6 coach train would still be full creates this illusion that the company must be doing something right for all these people to want to travel. It's bollocks.
I'm sick of hearing earnest cries from Whitehall about getting motorists out of their cars and onto public transport. That would be great. But until there's the viable alternative of an integrated public transport system, it will not - nay, can not - happen. Bus deregulation is a mess, train privatisation is a mess. And we the public end up paying through the nose for the whole job lot of it, whether we travel or not.

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