Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 13th February 2019

Under the Conservatives the lowest cost season ticket from Three Bridges to London Victoria has gone up from £2,804 in 2010 to, as of last month, £3816 per year. That’s a growth of over £1,000, a 36% rise dwarfing the increasing costs of almost everything else, except perhaps housing. Transport and housing, two things people can not do without and perhaps the two greatest areas of failure of the current government. The fact that the very name of the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has between on-going rail chaos, the failed Brexit lorry park preparations and dodgy ferry contracts become a by-word for incompetence and failure says just about all you need to know.

The trouble is these failures are taking place with things we cannot afford to do without. Next week we’ll get some idea of just how dependent Crawley is upon a functioning rail network when we are forced to do without services between Three Bridges and Brighton for a week so that works can take place. This may be an inconvenience, but I think people do accept that to keep us safe a certain amount of maintenance work is necessary. The issue isn’t the odd closures, it is the on-going poor performance day-to-day.

As a commuter, I can’t remember the time both my morning train and my evening train were on-time. Were this any sector without a natural monopoly, it would be hard to see how the company wouldn’t have been driven out of business by now with those sorts of performance statistics. To pay an ever increasing amount for services which are less reliable, more cramped and with fewer amenities available, really does question how as a country we’re allowing our services to be provided

I’m not going to pretend that the world would be all sunshine and rainbows under a Labour Government, but much more can be done to bring ticket prices under control. At the same time a rail network back in the public’s hands would at minimum restore the accountability that there once was for failure and end the exploitative position the rail companies currently occupy.

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