Departure from football today as I thought it was time to vent my spleen. I’m going to try to do it in a slightly more positive way, though. Instead of just whining about my trains (and not just because of fares, though the price I pay, the service should be better) I’m going to propose solutions – or ideas for SouthEastern to think about. Here’s seven of them. I’d love to hear of more if you have them. Train travel shouldn’t be an inconvenient chore. It can be but it doesn’t need to be.
1. Better information should be given at stations.
When you’re waiting for a train, you’re at the mercy of the
information you have. As such, the fact that National Rail have an app that displays the progress of each train on its journey is useful. I see no reason that information is not displayed at stations. Where the electronic displays are, telling us that trains are due in 9 minutes, or at 16.32, it could page across and say, for example; left Tonbridge at 16.00. Delays will occur, but passengers would then know at the time.
2. One-Way tickets should cost half the price of returns.
When you buy a pint, half a pint costs half as much. I cannot see any reason that return tickets should be only a small increment more in price than single tickets. If I am travelling to work but getting a lift home, I should not have to pay practically the same for my ticket as I would if I was getting a train back, too. I’m using half the service. I know that in advance.
3. Season tickets should be available for a number of journeys; not necessarily a length of time.
We live in a world of increasingly part-time workers who do not need to buy a ticket that sees them through a week, or a month, or a year – if you’re only working three days a week, why pay for five? The oyster cards are only used when a customer makes a journey, yet even when I’m sitting at home, I’ve paid for my journey that day; I actually lose out not going into work. It would be simple enough to sort out a system that tickets are scanned and the a journey ‘removed’ from it. Sell them in 10s or 20s, like they do on buses.
4. Railway lines should be given a colour scheme.
Just as on the underground, knowing which line you need to be on when changing train, and thus which platform, could be made a lot easier by colour coding. Yes, there would have to be duplication of colours nationally, but I’m sure people could cope with the Orange Line to Wakefield, then the other Orange Line out to Dawlish after they’ve changed at London having travelled on the red.
5. Better ‘offer’ pricing for groups.
If people are travelling distance in bulk, getting the train is often considered but works out quite expensive frequently. It would be sensible, therefore, to reduce the price of tickets proportionally (perhaps only for journeys over a certain length, or certain timespan); maybe one ticket could £100, two could be £175 (100% + 75%), three could be £225 (100% + 75% + 50%) and so on and so forth. The train is battling with cars for this market and, while it offers comfort and convenience, people will make their decisions based on cost.
6. Tie-In with events.
The easiest tie-in is football. There is simply nothing wrong with the idea of a football club and a railway company tieing together (hell, they could even rope in a hotel chain) and saying, say. “Travel to Plymouth Argyle this weekend. Your match ticket, your train ticket and your hotel for the night will cost you £100 from Birmingham”. It wouldn’t attract the element that would want to be part of a big group, perhaps, but for families, or couples, or solo travellers, it would offer convenience, affordability and security.
7. Conductors are great. Every train should have one.
Given that so much of train travel relies on communication, the fact that so many journeys I make are undertaken with no sight of railway employee is disappointing. Not only does this give rise to the inkling of a thought that I could travel without a ticket most days (I have been completely unchecked or impeded by barriers for a whole week in the past) but those that don’t make the journey regularly, or need onward travel information can be satisfied very quickly and easily by somebody working their way down the train. Simple thing, but very useful.