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Miscellaneous

How to Fix the UK Train Network

As I’m only a few months away now from giving back my Smart EQ electric car, my second EV, and my last privately owned car, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to get around in future. I don’t tend to travel very far very often, and cycling works for me to get around most of the time. But when I want to go to Scotland for example, trains are the obvious choice. They’re efficient, they’re fun, and they’re electric in many cases.

As a child I loved trains, and at one point I wanted to be a train driver. Now that I’m rediscovering my love of rail, I suppose it may still be possible, but that’s something to consider in the future. As far as the train network itself, it has many problems, and as someone who hasn’t been paying much attention to it for a long time, I’d like to offer my fresh perspective on what can and should happen in order to bring the British rail network up to the level it should be.

Trains are one of those things that the British invented before they got left behind as other countries surpassed them. If you look at the Japanese or Dutch railway systems now, and then you look at our trains in 2020, you should feel ashamed and embarrassed to be British. I know I do.

One of the main reasons we’ve put ourselves in this position is because of the nostalgia people feel in this country towards those good old days. Most of the people who truly care about trains are the same people who have grown up with and have great attachment to steam and diesel rolling stock. It has prevented us from moving forward and causing this huge resistance to change. But there are other reasons too. Politically, we’ve seen awful government after awful government who haven’t been willing to invest. And because our society has fully embraced the car to the detriment of trains, buses and cycling, our ancient and crumbling train infrastructure has been left to rot. Even keeping it from disintegrating further costs huge amounts of money which is then translated to sky high ticket prices. For a service that doesn’t even come close to justifying this cost. It would surely be cheaper to just rip it all up and basically start again.

Everything about rail travel in this country feels antiquated and long overdue a total overhaul. From the track and stations to ticketing and railcards. We need full electrification, we need contactless payments and Oyster support nationally, new trains, timetables you can rely on. And most importantly, if the prices are to remain high, then the service quality has to match.

In the coming posts, I will go into more detail about each of the topics I’ve outlined here.