It’s about a quarter to seven at London Euston train station. I’ve just boarded a Virgin Pendolino train to Stockport. The train’s not been on the platform long, and there’s still fifteen minutes to go before it sets off. I’m standing at the end of coach C, between the end of the seated section and the adjoining carriage, just next to the wobbly rubbery bit. I’m standing there because all the seats are taken.
And why are all the seats taken? I can only assume it’s something to do with Virgin Trains’ scandalous policy of charging passengers – and this is only standard class passengers you understand – SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS more to travel after 7pm than during peak times. Peak times which start at 3pm. Not so much rush-hour as rush-four-hours, then.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if all twelve trains that run during that time (up to and including the 6.40pm train) are half-full, or perhaps even emptier because of this frankly ludicrous policy. It’s a pretty shocking state of affairs that so many people clearly felt it necessary to wait for the later train. There’s a big difference between thirty-something pounds and over a hundred for a single journey.
What’s even more daft is that I checked the prices on http://www.thetrainline.com yesterday, and was quoted £32.85 for a single. At the station this morning, the single was £67.70, with an off-peak return four pounds more. Now if I’d booked online, I’d have had the choice of paying more on the way back if I wanted to get home earlier – given that I had three hours to kill, I might have thought about it had the price difference not been so significant. But obviously I wasn’t going to pay £67.70 for a single when the return cost barely any more.
It’s little wonder people have problems with public transport when a two-hour return journey during peak hours costs well over £200 in standard class – particularly given that you’re not even guaranteed a seat unless you book beforehand. In my experience, while the First Class carriages remain comparatively empty, it’s only once in a blue moon that the conductors see fit to open them up to anyone, even when – as in this case – the seats are all taken and people are having to sit or stand near the doors. Why people should be expected to abandon their cars for an uncomfortable journey that costs several times more than a full tank of petrol I’ll never know.