I sat down over Christmas and actually did something that might be considered to be akin to proper work. I did some calculations and considered the ramifications of travelling from my place of residence in glorious, rainswept Wiltshire to beyond Castle Black and The Wall and on to Edinburgh. The choice: Car or public transport.
I did a route planner and calculated how much it would cost to drive the pair of us up there in our own economical petrol-engined car and how long, given reasonable conditions, it would take. I then delved into the mysterious world of public transport apps and the like to discover how we would get there using these services and how much it would cost, booking in advance and off-peak.
To be honest, so tortuous was it that I got a bit fed up after a while and sort of gave up trying to negotiate the absolutely best deal with the railways but I did establish, using mighty, generous Google and the TrainLine website that the travel times would be roughly equal (although the railway travel time did not allow for transfers and cab or bus fares to from and to the start and finish points) and that a return rail fare for one, off peak, would be £332!! I’ll type that again for effect: £332!!
In my car I’m sure I could go to the moon and back for that money and still have enough juice left to go up the carvery to save cooking after a long trip and still have enough money to fill the car up again.
The point is that around the country various town hall bigwigs are talking up their green credentials – largely because they’ve just got their sweaty mitts on a few green millions from H.M. Gov. Deluded town hall officials want us all to be driving electric cars in the future and we all jolly well better jump to it. Up to a point, I don’t mind that. Consumer EV’s are not terribly exciting but the idea is sound and if I was in a position to I would use one for my local needs; but as I’ve just pointed out, if you need to travel any distance then, unless you can afford to take a couple of days over it, you would have to use public transport. This is the problem.
Public transport, in particular the railways, are not interested in occasional travellers. They are only concerned with commuters who, poor benighted souls that they are, have little choice but to cough up massive sums just to go to work. Similarly, bus routes are always slanted toward the most lucrative routes. If you live in rural areas it is, basically, tough.
In olden times, the two main forms of public transport were more or less single, national entities. You could get pretty much anywhere you wanted. Uneconomic routes were subsidised. This a system that could have worked in an ideal world but didn’t because of the clash between outdated political ideology and management borne of the Victorian era. Some will remember the dark brooding stations where the employed denizens took misery to an art form; when the rolling stock had “Lancelot was ‘ere” scratched into the flaking wood with a sword tip and you had to wade through piles of dog-ends, but it was ours and we used it. Those days are gone, to be replaced by retail outlets where trains happen to stop coupled with rank greed.
So what’s to be done? I’m entirely happy with an electric car that drives well and they are fine for urban dwellers, but what happens when you fancy an impromptu trip away? It is simply too expensive and too inconvenient to travel by train. So we continue to use our petrol-powered cars. I just wish that all these pie-in-the-sky ideals that drip out of town halls and governments departments could be replaced by a bit of common sense. Change can be achieved but not in this piecemeal, half-baked way. Geoff Maxted