Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm on the train....

The supreme irony of reading the news story in the Metro this morning depicting a new level of hell for commuters while on an Edinburgh to Glasgow train which has been inexplicably cut from 6 to 3 carriages in the middle of the rush hour was not lost to me, but unlike the significant numbers who boarded (those who could board) in Haymarket, Linlithgow, and Falkirk High at least I got a seat.
Spiralling house process in our cities have made it inevitable that suburban flight has meant an increase in journey times to work for many of us, so the TUC’s new figures that show that there has been a 22 percent rise in the number of commuters in Britain who take over an hour to travel to work in the past 10 years has confirmed the trend most rather than acting as groundbreaking news.
In my 2 months of intercity train journeys the service has, by and large been good. It’s regular, so you don’t have to wait about at the station. Today’s sardine tin-like exception aside, it’s far more reliable than trying to dive down the M8 ever is (thank God I don’t have to cross the Forth Road Bridge every day). But there are 2 things that we should improve on the train.
Firstly, the time it takes to travel is inexplicably excessive. While I know that SPT are touring Scottish journalists around the Maglev trains in China ( I’ve been told that the magnetic train system goes so fast that they would have to knock down Falkirk in order to get a track without highly dangerous high speed bends, so pros and cons there then.. ) it’s currently possible with existing track and trains to reduce the journey time significantly. Only last week my 15 minute late train made the journey from Waverley to Queen Street in about 40 minutes to arrive roughly on time after we cancelled all stops on the way. This must be a no-brainer, but as yet there are no express Glasgow-Edinburgh trains on the timetable. Am I missing something?
The second challenge is the price. £16.90 return? I’s be cheaper commuting from Perth. If there are many higher fares for the journey time/milage in the UK I’d be very surprised. Opening up the train network to all commuters would assist those struggling to get on the property ladder by providing the option of moving out of town and commuting in. This would be good for house prices, and good for the development of our central best commuter towns.
As we pull into Queen Street it’s clear to me that the main problems facing commuters around me are easily quantifiable and eminently solvable. Can anyone else see the benefits of more people getting of the roads and travelling by train while at the same time getting the chance of an extra 15 minutes in bed every morning?