With rail congestion being rifer than Twitter tweets from Donald Trump this Christmas, it has even forced Transport for London (TFL) to waiver the controversial £11:50p #Congestion charge for vehicles travelling through key London areas on Christmas Eve. Whilst this is great news for those what to experience the joys of the open road, just for one day it masks the real issue, in terms of rising road congestion.
It looks like the disruption, exacerbated by the Southern Rail strikes over the Festive period - could be seen as the UK Government, unilaterally promoting the good old automobile over a public transport alternative. This waiver of the congestion charge stands out as an admittance that the poor state of our rail industry means that Britain is in a far weaker position than a lot of other countries, particularly those still in the EU, to fight traffic congestion with a #rail travel alternative.
Can the frail rail network cope?
Exhibit A in the case against those who believe or have a vested interest in believing that HS2, when it eventually materialises, is the answer to despair-driven commuter prayers. Is the (inevitably delayed) 22:19, on a recent Friday night, from Manchester Oxford Road to Barrow via key calling points, such as Wigan and Preston.
This, one of undoubtedly, a number of examples that could be found across this month alone, represented the last train to its destination (and Lancaster), with there being no affordable alternatives for the 106 mile trip, at that time of night. However, it was not the final train to other destinations like Wigan or Preston. Yet, regardless of where they were going, wannabe commuters crammed into this train, pushed people off it and caused general bedlam. Prompting #Transport Police to panic and ordinary everyday folk, who have just enjoyed a day or evening at the legendary Manchester Christmas Markets, to turn into savages, protecting their crammed portion of the train like a wolf over a carcass. Yet, at a guess, a good 40% of the train had a viable alternative train not long after.
A system is needed, much needed
With a plethora of fare evading barriers at most stations, especially at the Manchester Oxford Road train station, in an age whereby it’s around 40% (rough guess) cheaper to purchase tickets in advance. Then there would be early warning signs about high or sardine squashing proportion demand on a train and some sort of system could be set up. That would ensure tickets that are for travel to Wigan or Preston, in this example, are marked and, the ticket holders are directed onto the slightly later train?
I know this seems a defeatist point of view, fire-fighting even, but before you can improve rail travel and reduce traffic congestion by getting more people on it. You need to accept that the multitude of rail providers in the UK can’t handle or even gauge demand, these days. Well, looking on the bright-side. This is one thing we can’t blame on Brexit.