On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

A case for more flexibility?

Posted on April 15, 2009

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The past weekend saw me fit in a short foray to Scotland and rail engineering work has started to return some thoughts to my mind that have lain dormant for a while and then developed them. The main cause of this was the non-running of trains between Lockerbie and Glasgow or Edinburgh because of work on the line. The result was that I got sent around by the more expensive East Coast mainline on a journey commencing from Macclesfield. Does going around by York add that much to the mileage?

Of itself, that escapade has prompted thoughts regarding the differences in fares between the West Coast and East Coast mainlines. Some vague recollection has left me with the impression that the former is subsidised with the latter being treated as a sort of cash cow. However, it would make for a great display of forward thinking if West Coast tickets were to made valid for journeys along the East Coast whenever engineering works took place. Going beyond this again, it might be an even better idea if fare harmonisation meant that an East Coast journey cost the same as a West Coast one. In the eyes of some, that may seem like adding a new idiosyncrasy to a system that already is illogical in parts. Others may decry the idea of fare increases while more would appreciate the decreases. All in all, having the extra flexibility could be worth it.

Saying all of that, the tide seems to be going the way of inflexibility these days so another crazy idea of mine might never see the light of day either: tickets allowing you to go via either Edinburgh or Glasgow on journeys going further north. Though it doesn’t happen so often these days, there have been occasions in the past when I wished to go via Edinburgh and return via Glasgow or vice versa but the need of single tickets for each precluded the scheme. Then, I was prone to going by coach from Scotland’s central belt so the idea of a “Central Belter” ticket allowing the use of either Edinburgh or Glasgow on inbound or return journeys often appealed.

Would either of the above wild daydreams yield an increase in visitors to Scotland using the railways? I don’t know the answer to that one but having the freedoms granted by their implementation would be no bad thing. Otherwise, the thoughts of the inconvenience induced by what I assume are very necessary rail engineering works are enough to get you wondering about the prospect of going by National Express coaches instead. Add the cost of travel into the equation and the coach option starts to look more promising, enough to make you wonder why the service level isn’t better than it is.