Train Illustration by Alison Day
I love trains.
I’m actually sat on one right now, as I write. The sun is just beginning to set and the pylons are casting long shadows across the country side. I’m slicing through fields, past dense forests and picture postcard villages, through cities and industrial sites, and fields full of sheep. It’s just me, my music, my laptop and a cup of tea. A good cup of tea on a train is all the more appreciated in my books, having been made, as it was, whilst moving at 50 miles per hour on a tilting platform.
I don’t usually work on the train. My favourite train journey past time is to simply gaze out of the window and allow my mind to wonder beyond the everyday things, to the things that usually reside at the edges. Three hours to myself. As the train tilts and twists and wobbles on its journey, I watch peoples gardens as they whoosh by. Fleeting glances through the windows, the flicker of a TV screen, children playing, pairs of tights dangling from the washing line; the shape of the oweners legs and feet still impressed into the elastic, like dangling legs in the wind.
Fair Fares Illustration by Faye West
I have been a frequent train traveller since I moved to London from Up North to go to University years ago. It started with the dreaded Mega Bus, always packed, the toilet always broken, with tyrannical drivers preventing us from getting off the bus at the change over. The toilet was the thing that pushed me, and almost my bladder, over the edge. I’d endured too many a Mega Bus journey ending with a sprint across the coach station to the toilet, laden with heavy bags and fumbling for 20p’s. Shudder. As soon as abject student poverty subsided into easily forgettable student debt I spent my meager pennies on catching the train instead, a luxury I reveled in. I found it easy to find cheap tickets at first, booked during the week of travel or even on the day.
31% Increase in train fares. Illustration by Matilde De Sazio
But as my university days fade so does the memory of cheap fares. Between 1997 and 2008, the cost of traveling by train rose by 46%, while the cost of traveling by car rose by only 26% . UK rail fares are on average 50% more expensive than European fares. And if that wasn’t bad enough already, In 2012 the Government (“the greenest yet”) is planning massive fare hikes of 31% over the next five years – the biggest fare hike in a generation.
Craftivist piece by Hannah Henderson
I now struggle to book a cheap ticket weeks, sometimes months, in advance, such is the nature of the ticket allocation systems. Train companies have been expanding Peak times making it much harder to find cheaper tickets and without the buffer of my Young Persons Rail Card (R.I.P, sob) I could face Peak time fares of hundreds of pounds. I can buy flights for much cheaper, hell, I can buy whole cars for not much more. Its ridiculous.
Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, so reducing or avoiding plane travel is one of the single biggest ways an individual can reduce their carbon footprint. But ridiculously high train fares, coupled with ridiculously low air fares mean that many people choose flying, even if they really don’t want to. Cheap plane travel effectively privatises the pollution but socialises the consequences.
Eurostar commissioned some independent research which found that taking the train to Paris instead of flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by a massive 90%. To be in with any chance of reducing the massive levels of CO2 emitted by flying, governments need to be investing more in train travel and less in road and plane travel. In an age when action on climate change is woefully inadequate and slow, increasing train fares is bad for people, bad for business and bad for the environment.
Craftivist illustration by Natasha Thompson
This is why I was intrigued to hear about the joint efforts of The Craftivist Collective and Climate Rush to take a stand against excessive rail fares. The Craftivist Collective last weekend joined in a nationwide protest to demand a halt to rail fare increases. ‘Stitch-ins’ were held at stations across the UK where fabric train carriages were embroidered with some of the eye watering facts about the rise in train fares. Groups spread picnic blankets on station concourses and preceded to eat cake and jam sandwiches whilst crafting away and chatting to members of the public about their campaign. The embroidered messages will be sewn into a petition-train and taken on a Fair Fare Railway Adventure by Climate Rush this Saturday 16th April. It will involve bikes, more jam sandwiches and bright red petticoats. For more information, or if you would like to get involved, click here. Alternatively, you can add your name to the Unfair fares petition from the comfort of your armchar right here.
Craftivist illustration by Natasha Thompson
A Railway Adventure, Alison Day, Climate Change, Climate Rush, Craftivist Collective, Craftivists, Faye West, global warming, government, Hannah Bullivant, Mega Bus, Natasha Thompson, Public Transport, Train, Train Fares
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