The hot topic this week is the hike in train fares in the UK, with an average rise of 3.4 per cent.
As pay packets rise at a much slower rate and have done for a while, the pinch is being felt even more by commuters, especially those working in the public sector.
At one time, I had six friends who commuted daily from Portsmouth to London. Every Friday when we’d meet at the pub, they’d talk about the awful service, the overcrowding, the late running or cancellations.
Today, none of them does that commute. They have either moved closer to London or found different jobs here in the south.
Does the current franchise system work? On paper, yes. More people are using the train than ever before, but it’s flawed.
We’ve had nationalisation, which many said didn’t work and the system became costly, unionised, monolithic and inefficient.
But the government is still pumping billions into the rail network and although the franchised companies are investing in new stock, still very large dividends are sent to other rail networks across the world, away from the UK.
Big profits are being made and we all know these privately-owned companies will put the interest of the shareholder above that of the customer.
Privatisation was also meant to introduce competition, meaning more trains competing for your business offering lower fares.
This hasn’t happened. The only competition is in the franchise application process. For the customer there is little choice of which operator to use.
So what is the answer?
Why not try a new way to run our railways? A way in which you reward the staff and not the shareholder. How about 51 per cent owned by the government and 49 per cent owned by the staff?
All profits would return to the railway infrastructure as well as profit-related bonuses paid to staff.
This way, a highly efficient, profitable service would be very much in every worker’s interest.
Would this not prove a success, not only for the railways, but the bus industry, Royal Mail and our utility companies for future nationalisation, without stagnation?
REKINDLING THOSE GLORY DAYS AT FRATTON PARK
I managed to see my first match of the season at Fratton Park last Saturday, as Pompey came from behind to beat Northampton Town 3-1.
It was wonderful to be back in that atmospheric old stadium, in the Upper North stand.
Family and work commitments mean I cannot attend enough games to justify a season ticket, but memories of AC Milan, Pedro Mendes ‘worldies’ and Premier League promotion came flooding back. And with more than 18,500 in the place, the atmosphere wasn’t far off those Premier League days.
We scored three good-quality goals and it wasn’t too long before I realised again it’s one of my favourite places to be.
When my son is old enough, the season ticket will return!
I’VE GOT THE WILLPOWER, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DISCIPLINE
Although our world will look very bare and grey when the decorations come down tomorrow, I must say I do like the New Year feel. A fresh start, re-setting your goals personally and professionally.
For me, it’s simple. Self-discipline!
I really have let myself go: too much good food and fine wine.
So, dry January is on, the gym membership dusted off and I’ve imposed a ban on snacking!
I’ve done it before, I have the willpower, but for me it’s the long game. I’ve lost weight and put it back on too many times.
Now the aim of the game is to lose it and maintain it, self-discipline, my mantra for 2018, hopefully!