Held Up Without A Gun

Posted on 29th June 2008

This weekend, DanDan and I went down to Bristol for an event, which I will cover later. On the way down, a friend of ours dropped us off in his recent purchased Bentley. It was certainly great driving down the M5 in style. Unfortunately the journey home wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable. In actual fact it felt felt like highway robbery.

Earlier last week I investigated getting DanDan and I return tickets to Bristol, Temple Meads from New Street, Birmingham. We were planning to get the bus in and out of town, as that just made things easier. It was quite a shock at the difference in prices. The best return I could find was £59.55, a "Saver" Return. However, the link at the bottom does helpfully suggest that you check two singles tickets as these can often be cheaper. They weren't kidding either. The Standard Advance Single was listed as £10.50 in each direction, that's £21.00 for a return for both DanDan and I. A difference of £38.55 ... nearly £40! So how exactly am I saving with a returning ticket?

Unfortunately, as I'd assumed that buying a ticket at the station on the day, seeing as we were getting a lift down to Bristol, might only be slightly more than the Standard Advanced Single, I decided not to buy one in advance. Alas I wasn't prepared for the shock I got when I was told by the ticket clerk, that it was £51.00 to get back to Birmingham. I was absolutely staggered. The ticket clerk did try hard to find if we could buy the ticket in alternative forms to try and reduce the cost, but to no avail. As it turned out he suggested that we buy a Family Rail Card, which although would end up reducing the cost of the ticket, both together would end up costing £52.90, the benefit being that we could actually use the Family Rail Card if we ever used the railways again over the next year. I should imagine we will, so hopefully we will get some benefit, but the cost of the fare has really disappointed me.

If I had chosen to drive my car down to Bristol, it would have cost about £20. The original idea to use the trains was partly to save some money, but also to just use public transport because for a change it was convenient. Doubt I'll do it again.

Once upon a time the cost of a return train ticket would be just less than a single, not nearly 3 times the price. And if you bought the ticket on the day of travel it might be a couple of pound more than in advance, but not 5 times the price! In fact it was rare to bother buying a ticket in advance, as it gave you more options to travel. When I've travelled in Europe by train, the prices have always seemed reasonable, here in the UK it is nothing short of daylight robbery. Anyone planning to travel the trains who arrives from abroad is going to get the shock of their life. I also have to travel down to London soon and I see the Standard Open Return has leapt up to £123.00. Even that used to be less than £20 just over 10 years ago.

National Rail in the UK is an absolute disgrace, not just in terms of the price, but also with timetables. The train back to Birmingham from Bristol got announced as being delayed several times and finally left the station over 40 minutes later than it should have done. Now we were lucky, I've know of other recent delays to be several hours later, or even cancelled.

The ONLY redeeming feature of the railway network these days is that much of the rolling stock is being replaced by trains that do have the passengers comfort and interest in mind. The newer carriages have much better seats, usually with a bit more space than I remember of old, they are much more appealing to be in, but most useful for me is that many carriages have sockets for mobile phones and laptops. I suspect some of the prices have been due to the upgrade of rolling stock, but with the amount of passengers that commute daily on the train, I can't help think that the rail companies are taking advantage of their customers.

However, the biggest culprit is still the lack of government investment. In other European countries it seems they take their railway infrastructure a bit more seriously. As a consequence there doesn't seem to be the same amount of traffic on the roads. At the moment with the rising cost of fuel, I can easily understand more people looking to the trains to reduce their travel costs, and then being amazed to discover that fuel costs would have to virtually triple before making it more cost effective. Madness.

As far as I can see the only means of public transport that actually has improved, both in rolling stock and price (especially price) are the buses. Maybe the bus companies ought to take over the rail companies and show them how it can be done.

File Under: commerce / environment / rant / trains


Posted on 7th June 2008

Nicole commented the other day, after watching the latest ACT ON CO2 advert, that whoever coined the term 'Carbon Footprint' had come up with a really good idea to get people thinking about their contributions to global warming. While I don't think that global warming can ever be changed by individual effort, I do think that pressure on manufactures to reduce packaging, or to find and use alternative forms of energy, are much more likely to offset the emissions contributing to global warming.

However, it also had me thinking about who actually did coin the term. After a bit of research, it seems widely accepted that William Rees, a Canadian environmentalist and ecologist, first coined the term "Ecological Footprint" in 1992. Although not quite the same, The Carbon Footprint is seen as a subset of issues involved with the Ecological Footprint. Rees developed a method to calculate our ecological destruction based on our consumption, and appears to have been a catalyst for changing how we look at our consumption levels. The Carbon Footprint, in most definitions looks specifically at fossil fuels, but nowhere that I've seen, actually indicates who was first to actually reference the term for that type of measurement.

Having done a bit of reading, I'm much more intrigued to see if we can change attitudes to our Ecological Footprint, as the environmental damage we are doing, especially in terms of the completely useless amount of packaging we use these days, is possibly a bigger contributor not just to the resources we use, but the amount that gets dumped to landfill. Although alot of packaging these days can be recycled, too much is just being thrown away. I'm also alarmed by the amount of fossil fuel crops we are globally producing now. A news item recently highlighted that as food crop farming has become so much less profitible, we could soon find food becoming a luxury commodity.

But back to the original question. Who did coin the term Carbon Footprint? Any ideas?

File Under: environment

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