High Speed Views: Victory?


As anybody lucky enough to count one of our number in their friends and family will tell you, we commuters are a stoical lot not given to grumbling. Proud warriors of the silver rails, we plough our lonely furrow through rain, shine and leaves on the line, barely uttering a word of the hardship we endure to provide for those left safely at home.

You’ve probably met one of us, but you’d never know as we are bound by a code of silent suffering, known only to each other by a series of secret glances. True veterans, grizzled by many seasons, develop a mystical air as they exist simultaneously in our realm, whilst their mind is constantly navigating points failures and rail replacement busses between Margate and Canterbury West.

For us there is little better than the experience of using our season tickets at the weekend. Barrelling through the countryside, past the landmarks we see every morning before sensible people are awake, is a liberating experience at the weekend. Ebbsfleet international is somehow softer at the weekend, like when your saw a teacher outside of school enjoying themselves like a regular human would. Even St Pancras is almost bearable, as you merge with the dithering tourists and enjoy their almost sedentary pace.

So different from the feral frenzy of a weekday. Recently somebody asked for advice on a popular social media platform: “I’m visiting London for the first time, any advice?” The first reply was short and to the point: “Yes. Get out of the f*cking way”.

There is a further victory for the weekending rail warrior. It is simply joyous to walk past the Saturday ticket machine queue, small plastic South East Trains wallet in hand, and hear the grumbling of the occasional traveller “£40 to get to London? Madness”. You see, we have already paid for our weekend travel. All too often, however, those days, like double zero on a roulette wheel, belong to the house. And like inveterate gamblers the thrill for us does not lie in the amount we win, but in putting one over on “the man”.

Sometimes I feel like just riding to Ashford and back on a Sunday, simply to use the travel I’ve already paid for. Imagine the thrill of such a journey? Imagine the already thankless activity of travelling to Ashford being rendered completely futile by simply turning around and coming back again. Have I been rendered so petty by repeated delays and disruptions that I would waste an hour of my weekend to eat into the profit margins of a train operator? Yes. Yes, I have.

The only problem here is that I would count as not one but two passenger journeys, adding to the statistics that feed into annual rail usage figure. I would make rail travel some fractionally more popular that it is, and, under the current rail racketeering system, I would contribute to the formula that puts prices up. And so, the microscopic triumph of a weekend trip to London is snatched from my grasp, even before the Monday trudge to the station starts again.


  1. Alex, you ‘ve given us yet another rail -focused piece. Surely you only commute to earn more money…and yet you make it seem like there’s a sacrifice involved…which kind of implies there’s something to be gained by the many for your trips?

    Long distance commuting ( a word invented in the US as the fare for regulars was “commuted” i.e. reduced) is a realisation that the state has had no effective ” planning”, so the location of jobs and housing are totally mis-matched.

    While we are thinking along similar lines, the no -figures -please article you did on HS2 has not been commented on by you, or any other opinionated reader. ( how many are there? not including the right memorable? Bob Britnell )

    Today, at last ,the government has announced a cost review. I have to apologise,yet again , for misleading readers. I said the figure last week was £60 billion. We hear today that the likely figure is £88 billion, but nobody has any idea.

    On taxpayers’ behalf , £7 billion…enough to build 60,000 homes, has been spent already on probably needless disturbance,demolition and destruction of environments, including woodland.

    Some Lib Dem peer comes onto the media today saying we should go on with it ,but with sharper control of finances. She must live on another planet….no compensation for compulsory purchase there…..

    With projects like this, cost control seems to be impossible. One of the only good decisions Thatcher made, was to get the Channel Tunnel entirely built with private finance. So as, with many Victorian railways, private, gung -ho investors lost out not the taxpayer.

    Just one further reminder of how we do not prioritize investment : today’s news showed people living in converted shipping containers in London: a bit like just storing goods.

    Wouldn’t it be just if those who have spent that £7 billion on our behalf were surcharged and brought to trial?

    PLEASE…is there anyone out there to help?


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