Back in August, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made headlines across the globe by sitting on the floor of a hectic commuter train for the three hour journey between London and Newcastle.
Think what you like about Corbyn but it’s no lie to say that the majority of politicians would have probably used tax payers’ money to upgrade themselves to first class so that they could commute a little more comfortably than the rest of us – but Jeremy decided to join his fellow commuters and sat on the floor.
Perhaps it was a PR stunt, but whether it was or was not does not particularly matter – in doing so, Corbyn highlighted an issue which commuters deal with day in, day out – a discomfort which is soon going to cost us even more of our money.
As a commuter myself, I am no stranger to the misery of early morning trains. They are forever late, overpriced, pathetically busy, they are always either too hot or too cold, and they always have a rather peculiar smell too – like a musky, dusty, old odour.
Throughout the month I spend, on average, just less than a quarter of my monthly pay on trains – and I only endure a perilous 30-minute journey.
Oh, and as if things weren’t already bad enough – prices are about to go up (again).
Next year, train prices – everything from standard tickets to season passes – will go up in price by 1.9 per cent, according to the Mirror.
I decided to do a spot of investigating here and worked out that a 1.9 per cent increase will mean that every day my tickets will cost an extra 22 pence.
In a working week, the increase will cost me an extra £1.10.
And by the end of the year, I would have spent an additional £53 on train tickets – but where is my money going? Ultimately, it’s going to private companies.
But, hey, at least our private trains in Britain are the best in the fucking world. Always so reliable, and comfortable, and clean, and warm – and you’re always guaranteed a lovely seat aren’t you Jeremy… Oh no, wait – no you’re not.
But what is the answer? Well a lot of people are arguing that we need to re-nationalise the railways.
Currently, Network Rail owns the railways across the entirety of the UK and they have done since the early noughties.
However, it isn’t as simple as that as the rail system is split up and these divisions are then individually owned by numerous private companies who are making one hell of a profit.
One person with strong feelings against the privatisation of the railways is Ellie Harrison from the Bring Back British Rail campaign.
Speaking to UNILAD, Ellie said:
The entire railway system in the UK is flawed. The railways are owned by countless private companies who are all making a lot of money out of passengers.
They all have different CEO’s who are making up to around two million pounds a year, they have their own websites, marketing companies, legal teams, and countless workers, and they are all profiting from what, in my opinion, should be a public service.
What really pisses me off is that commuters need to use the railways. If you need to travel, a lot of the time there is no alternative. Most commuters don’t have any other choice so they’re merely forced to use trains and forced to pay the extortionate prices it costs to use them.
Back in 1993, the Conservative government thought that by privatising the railways it would make everything more efficient and price effective, whereas now tickets are more expensive, trains are less reliable, and the service in general has gone rapidly downhill.
So what we have here is a service which we’re paying a lot more for and getting a lot less out of. Only the private companies are benefiting from it. Not us.
If we re-nationalised the railways then there would be none of this and nobody could exploit the British public like the private companies have.
And Ellie is not alone, Trade Union Council secretary, Frances O’Grady, echoed Ellie’s claims, saying:
Rail passengers are paying more and getting even less. Fares go up while trains remain overcrowded, stations are unstaffed, and rail companies cut the guards who ensure journeys run smoothly and safely.
It’s time for rail services to be publicly owned, saving money for passengers and taxpayers alike.
Instead of increasing fares and cutting staff, we should be building an accessible, reliable train service that Britain can be proud of.
Apparently, the general public pump £9 billion into the train industry every year – so where is our money going?
Into the pockets of private rail company CEO’s? It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going back into the railways judging from my experiences over the past 12 months.
Last year, a YouGov survey revealed that the majority of people in the UK (and by a long way) support the re-nationalisation of the railways, so maybe it’s time the government at least debated the issue.
But what do you think?
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.