Why take the train then complain?

Intercity 125 trainThe BBC News website carried an ariticle today on growing dissatisfaction with rail fares. Now fair enough, the article makes some valid points. No-one likes the above-inflation rises in ticket costs that we see each year, and it is undoubtedly cheaper to travel by train in many other European countries.

However, what made me laugh were some of the comments other readers left on the article. Many people made remarks along the lines of how much cheaper, faster and more convenient it is to drive than take the train. If that’s true, why are the trains so overcrowded? Why would anyone take the train if it was simply better to drive? While there are some people who are unable to drive, perhaps due to disability, that does not apply to the vast majority of people. The truth is, despite it being unpleasant for many commuters, taking the train is still better value for money than driving. Of course, value for money can mean on of two things: it is simply cheaper, or it is slightly more expensive but you get more for your money as it’s faster or more convenient.

People can argue about whether the railways should have been privatised, but if the private rail companies are really creaming off profits, it’s market forces that are keeping tickets high, and prices would fall if people stopped taking the train. To some extent, this would be true even with a nationalised railway. So the answer is, if you think it’s better to drive, please do so. Only when people stop buying train tickets will the price fall in real terms. However, I suspect that most of the people who claim it’s so much better to go by car are the ones who take the train about once a year, and people of that mentality are never going to see any value in not having to drive.

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