I have travelled many countries in Europe and the Asia Pacific and used public transport in almost all of the cities I have visited. It was during a recent trip to the UK that I felt that UK is one of the most expensive countries for public transport. I should clarify that by public transport I’m referring to trains as I didn’t catch buses but going by general perception, fares for buses would not be very different.
Here are the details and cost of my journey:
A taxi to Northampton Station from where I was staying – £9 Northampton Station to Harlesden – £35 Return (with a change at Watford Junction) Harlesden to my final destination (1 mile away) – £6
I spent £65 for a return Journey of 130 Miles which involved 2 taxis, 2 Ubers, 4 separate trains taking just over 3 hours door to door. Imagining doing this everyday of the week gives me the shivers.
Public transport is the life blood of any country as the free movement of people is crucial for the development of a country. If transport or the movement of people becomes restricted, either by regulations or prohibitively expensive travel costs, it will be to the detriment of the growth of country’s economy.
After housing expenses, transport is the second largest ongoing expense people face irrespective of the choice of travel mode be it a personal car, a taxi or using public transport. Public transport is good for environment and generally it should be cheaper than privately owned cars or private hire vehicles, even for shorter distances.
There are reasons why public transport should be cheaper than other transport
a. It is funded by a large user base
b. It can be partially funded or subsidised by the Government to promote people movement
c. It does not offer an on demand service for the user and Public Transport Management manage the resource based on a predefined demand to minimise the wastage of infrastructure and staff
d. It doesn’t offer a complete journey to users as they still have to find a way to reach their destination from the train or bus station
Public transport, while it has its limitations in terms of providing last mile connectivity, has the capability to provide a cheaper alternative to a moving population either for work or lifestyle journeys. So, why has public transport in the UK become so expensive?
After searching through tranches of information available on internet, I found two interrelated reasons for potentially causing the expensive public transport in the UK.
- Privatisation – There may be various consumer protection clauses added when the nationalised railway was turned into a privatised railway. Private companies have profit maximization as their main incentive so to re-invest into any project or service will only be done if it benefits the shareholder, not necessarily the general public.
- Subsidisation – For some reason the Government doesn’t always see the necessity to provide a good affordable public transportation network to its citizens. I believe that any country not providing cheaper public transport or public health care does not see the wider social ramifications which can result in lower than expected quality of life. Some of these services do not need to have profit as their main focus and may require government subsidies to provide efficient and cost effective services.
While we can discuss nationalisation and the impact of privatisation contributing to more expensive public transport in the UK in more detail, it seems public transport is a cheaper option than other methods of transport when not including the last mile connection (i.e. a transport hub to your home).
We can either wait for the Government to provide cheaper and more efficient transportation solutions or we can look at alternate transport solutions ourselves. In our changing world there are many developments happening to provide Mobility as a Service (MaaS) which is a concept that puts travelers at the core of a transportation service by offering them tailor-made mobility solutions based on their individual needs.
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