The gravy train

photo (20)
You remember the little bit of wind we had a couple of weeks ago? All the train companies in the South East switched to emergency timetables just in case, and havoc ensued. My train was massively late, so I filled in the Delay Repay form on the Nationalised French Rail Operator’s website.

Of course, it’s not really the nationalised French rail operator. I mean, we all know that free markets win out, and that the railway companies in the UK were privatised, so how could that possibly be true?

Except that it kind of is. Your season ticket for £1,424 goes to SouthEastern. SouthEastern are owned by Govia. Govia are owned by the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%). And Keolis (keep up at the back) is majority owned by SNCF, the French equivalent of what used to be British Rail.

I’ve just paid £1,424 for a season ticket – that’s more than most people pay for a month’s rent in London. Then I receive a token for £1.10, which I can ONLY redeem with SouthEastern trains, and will be valid for exactly 12 months. It’s not even redeemable online.

How is this going to encourage the only train company that I use regularly to improve its service? In the notoriously left-wing rag City A.M., Alister Heath laments:

There is sadly mass support for nationalisation and price controls

There is also huge support for the nationalisation of the railways, at 66-23; again, not surprising given the weird public-private mish-mash that characterises the industry, the subsidies, the lack of transparency and accountability (who is in charge? Network Rail? The train firm?), the awful service and the lack of choice. We need a new deal for our railways – but state ownership was a disaster during the decades when it was tried.

Here’s the full YouGov poll.

Yes Alistair, it was a catastrophe… Except that Britain now has the most expensive fares in Europe, says the Telegraph.

The Go-Ahead Group (such a dumb name) which Southeastern is part of, made pre-tax profits of £82 million last year, and proposed to give a share dividend to investors of 81p per share. They’re doing just fine.

Keolis, the French part of South Eastern, made profits of 287m Euro in 2012.

Our rail system was a national asset. The market for rail companies isn’t working for anyone except its shareholders, more than 30% of which in our neck of the woods is now owned by the French government, and run for a profit, which is extracted from your pocket, into the French government’s.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “The gravy train

  1. Rupert Fiennes

    Gosh, a whole 81 million a year. I’ll bet Monsieur Holland will cancel his millionaires tax, tout suite!

    Speaking as someone who remembers BR, I’m in no hurry to go back, thanks very much.

  2. Anonymous

    Weren’t the problems the result of Network Rail’s prohibition on trains running until the tracks were checked? In which case your criticism should be directed there (and, incidentally, Network Rail is a not-for-profit company).
    I agree that train fares are expensive, but you haven’t explained how renationalisation is going to bring about cheaper fares and better service.

    • The government want us to act as consumers of the railways, not as citizens. As a consumer, I have no direct purchasing relationship with Network Rail, only with SouthEastern. Nationalisation already has brought about cheaper fairs and better service, although sadly not in the UK, and at our expense.

  3. Julie

    I’ve also claimed for windy day, but haven’t received my voucher yet. When I lived in Luton, Thameslink used to add such disruptive days onto the end of one’s season. I had assumed that this is what SouthEastern would do, as opposed to sending a voucher. Surely the post and administration must cost more than the voucher is worth.

  4. Beefy

    I will give you £1 for the voucher

  5. Rupert – I remember BR and I am in a hurry to get back.

    Renationalise with no, or minimal, compensation.

  6. The real scandal is that the rail companies are allowed to calculate refunds for season ticket holders as follows:
    Price of season ticket, divided by 546, is the refund if you delayed by more than one hour. 50% for less.
    Why 546? Because the rail companies assume you make 520 journeys a year (52 weeks x 10 journeys) i.e. no holiday at all, even at Christmas or Easter, AND they add in a further 26 random journeys i.e. one every two weeks.
    This means they expect a season ticket holder to make a full round trip every day of the year, except 92 days.
    It’s a rip-off, simply designed to reduce the amount they have to refund.

  7. Julie

    I got my voucher a couple of days ago. It was for a bit more than £1.10 and I don’t understand the discrepancy between yours and mine. I have a Gold Card and travel from Lee (Z3).

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