Far away trains…

Inverness railway stationRecently I booked some of my travel for the Christmas holidays. I’m off back to Inverness for a few days on Saturday, and I had to struggle to get a cheap APEX return train ticket for £19.50, avoiding the normal cost of around £35.00. So much for getting people out of their cars.

Of course, I could have got the Megabus for about a third of the price, but I hate the lack of legroom and get travelsick reading on buses, so tend to take trains whenever I can, as long as I can get those cheaper advance prices. But if the rail system continues to be so expensive for regular tickets, are more folk really going to bother?

Well, I suppose I am: I don’t have a car, so rely on public transport (and lifts from kind friends). And anyway, journeys are just as interesting as destinations. I’ve met a fascinating collection of people on trains around the UK – some genuinely compelling folk who help the hours fly by, one or two prize mentalists, and even people I’ve discovered I know of or have friends in common with. And on one occasion I sat next to a battered wife fleeing her husband with all she could cram into a single suitcase.

Surely stories like that are worth £19.50. Even if it will involve getting up for the 7.07am from Glasgow on Saturday, the only one with APEX seats left, the morning after my work Christmas bash…

9 thoughts on “Far away trains…

  1. I think your cheap ticket problem may be connected to the words “recently … booked … for Christmas”. I reckon that a few other people may also be wishing to travel at this time, and may have got in earlier than mid-December…

  2. Then I would argue that the prices are not outrageous. Glasgow to Inverness is a 348 mile return journey. At 35mpg that works out as about £40 in fuel costs alone. Add on insurance, MOT and the cost of buying the car (all per mile), and I think trains come out quite well.

    In this study, cars work out at about 150% the cost of trains, per mile. Bikes are even cheaper, at 40% of the cost of trains, per mile.


    22. Estimated per-passenger-mile costs are 10¢/mile for cycling, 25¢/mile for transit, 38¢/mile for autos. Key assumptions include cycling usage averaging 96 miles a week (of which one-third is commuting), 40 weeks a year, with annual parts and maintenance costs of $300/year in addition to new bicycle purchase every three years; auto costs of 50¢/mile with 1.3 passengers per car; transit fare of $1.25 with average trip distance of 5 miles.

  3. Ah but surely “cheaper than the car” isn’t really that much of an accolade given the high costs of driving. It’s like saying food is well-priced if it is cheaper per weight than caviar. Public transport has to not just be cheaper than the car, it is to be reasonably priced so that as many people can afford it as possible, as often as possible. Then there’s issues of frequency, punctuality and speed which further detract from the appeal of trains.

    I would maintain that costs of about £10 for an hour’s journey (as I have found most public transport in Scotland to be) plus the infrastructure and timetable deficiencies combine to make it prohibitive to us (never mind people from abroad) exploring and doing business in this great wee country of ours.

  4. Fair points. I’ll get off the conversation at this station, as I reckon that this line heads towards the topic of public services being privatised. Not something that I know enough about. All I know is that other countries (Germany, for example) have managed to get it much more right than here. I just reckon Scotrail get more stick than they deserve. £14 for an Aberdeen to Inverness return seems reasonable to me.

  5. And my last and final announcement is that I think generally Scotrail is alright too. And yes, £14 return between Inverness and Aberdeen is grand – the APEX fares are generally alright. It’s just the regular ones (about £27 for Inverness to Aberdeen, and nearly £40 for Inverness to Glasgow) that are extortionate.

  6. On one train journey I took from Glasgow to Inverness I was sitting amongst a family who had just got off a murder charge in court that day, an Inverness FC under 19 football player and a published novelist.

  7. If you go to the train station near my house and pay the man behind the window AU$10.60, you can travel for approximately 3hrs (on 2 trains and a bus) and end up a couple of blocks from the rolling surf of the Sunshine Coast.

    I reckon that’s a pretty good bargain!

  8. David that sounds like the beginning of a good joke! Interesting that you got talking to so many people around you.

    And Lara, £3 for three hours’ travel – that’s my sort of fare level!

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