On Friday The Scotsman reported on Government plans to increase train fares by 6% in January. Since the newspaper has a bad habit of not printing my letters here's my reply in full.
I read your transport correspondent Alastair Dalton's report about train fares rising 6.3% ['Rail tickets set to rocket despite 'fair fares' pledge 21/5/10] with a mixture of incredulity and disgust.
On Monday I travelled to Brighton to speak on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party to the annual conference of the Public and Commercial Services union PCS. My standard class return ticket, booked online and in advance, cost £220. Furthermore with Edinburgh Airport closed on Monday because of the volcanic ash the 10.30am London train resembled those seen only in third world countries. Hundreds of passengers, young and elderly, left crouching in the aisles and in any other available space they could find because there were no seats available. I was one of them. I reserved a seat but gave it up to a young French woman and her infant son who, having visited Edinburgh, were on their way back home.
Despite paying £220 to the Government owned East Coast train company they couldn't even provide me, or hundreds like me, with a seat during the 400 miles journey.
As it happened the speech I gave to the PCS conference outlined the case for free public transport as an effective way to combat the greenhouse gases emitted by motor vehicle exhausts. Described by one learned commentator as 'the boldest and most imaginative response any party has yet suggested to combat climate change' our proposal follows the example set by the Belgian city of Hasselt.
The union voted unanimously to support my proposal.The Governments aim meanwhile is to pass the cost of running our railways to passengers instead of matching the subsidies provided by all our European neighbours. This approach is downright irresponsible and does nothing to persuade people to leave their cars at home.