YOUTH MATTERS Jamie Stilgoe...The pain of public travel
As a student I've used public transport for years. My life feels like one long wait for trains, buses and coaches.
I have probably learnt more from the textbooks in the cold isolation of train stations than I have in the classroom.
For me, there are few things worse in life than planning a trip with military precision, whether it be for a job interview or catching a flight abroad, only to arrive at the train station to see three words on the arrivals board: Rail replacement service.
Worse still is that we still pay full price for a service for which we didn’t ask. If you rang your local taxi firm and a rickshaw pulled up outside half an hour later, would you roll your eyes and hop on? Probably not.
So why do we accept this from train companies and Network Rail?
Earlier this year Labour suggested plans to introduce discounts on rail replacement services but, as yet, there are still no government plans for service providers to reimburse customers for the inconvenience.
What the government could do is fine Network Rail for delayed services but, as Network Rail still receives £4bn of public funding a year, it could well be the taxpayers’ pockets being hit as a result.
Amazingly, it also appears that train and bus companies have mastered the ability of time travel as their arrival times tick slowly backwards without explanation. Passengers should place bets on the length of the delays with a seat in the (sparse) luxury of first class up for grabs. Even when services are running smoothly, there’s no guarantee of a pleasant journey.
Being pressed against a glass divide by a sweaty commuter with hygiene issues may be some people’s idea of a good time, but unfortunately it isn’t mine.
Similarly, some passengers seem to think a train or bus is a perfectly good place to start a rave and play loud music from their mobiles or generously turn their earphones up, allowing their fellow passengers to share in the joys of dubstep.
I may sound like just another disgruntled passenger but, having spent hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds on tickets over the years, you could say my casual usage has become a full-blown dependency.
Karl Marx said religion is the opiate for the masses but sadly for me it’s probably public transport.