A lot of disparaging things are said against the British rail system…
‘It’s always late’, ‘it’s too expensive’ and ‘it smells’ are the chief complaints.
Still – if you choose to drive instead then you run the chance of bumping into a whole new range of risks and dilemmas. Despite remaining a belligerent supporter of the public transport system here for some time, I’ve always been a driver at heart, preferring the freedom of exploring the UK on the roads rather than staying stuck on the (admittedly unpredictable) rails of the national train service.
Having spent the last few years travelling around the UK on the weekends, driving through country roads and rocketing down motorways, it would appear that I’ve broken a few laws along the way. I’d always wondered how I could speed so carelessly and never be caught in the act; it turns out that I’d not quite got away with all my indiscretions. My car had been registered in Ireland for some years and I’d neglected to change the details, so every camera that I sped past would record my little crime and a fine would dutifully be sent to my old home in Ireland (a flat that had been empty for some time).
It took a sharp knock on the door and a rather embarrassing conversation with a police officer to pick apart my shady driving history. It turns out that I’d been quite the ‘wanted man’ for some time now, having evaded the law so cleverly, investigators had felt that I must have been some kind of master criminal. The ‘arresting officer’ appeared a little crestfallen when he discovered that their mysterious driver turned out to be a well-spoken travel blogger with particularly poor attention to his life admin.
By the end of this conversation, I’d been clued in as to what I’d done and was summarily told to not get behind the wheel of a vehicle until I’d untangled the legal quandary that I’d found myself in.
Unfortunately, in order to clear my name (because I was definitely not losing my license because of my poor life admin skills), I had to make a trip to Liverpool, which meant getting on a train.
I’d been given the number of a motoring lawyer in Liverpool who, I was told, would be able to get me off the charges and potentially save me a lot of money. So, I swallowed my pride, gritted my teeth and jumped on the first train I could get taking me up North.
In response to my opening statements, I thought it would be prudent to run through my own chief complaints regarding the British rail system as it is today:
It really is too expensive.
The cost of rail tickets have been steadily rising for years now, causing head-scratching on a national level: after all, if train tickets are at the highest they’ve ever been shouldn’t that mean that we should be riding in the best trains available?
Heck, no! It feels cheap.
Unfortunately, despite the significant hike in ticket prices there doesn’t seem to have been any improvements in the actual service. Many of these trains have been lamely struggling along for a while now, with some of them dating as far back as the 70s: not cool. But at least they’re on time, right?
Nope! They’re still late and getting later…
If anything, punctuality on the train lines has decreased over the last years rather than improved, which is worrying when you consider how advanced and punctual other rail systems around the world have got – I can’t help but feel we’re falling behind somewhat.
I made it to Liverpool after a rather tiring 6 hour train journey and met with my lawyer, who informed me that I’d soon be back on the road, which I was relieved to hear.