New year, new rail fare price surge. Commuters might be upset at the soaring cost of rail travel but the FT's political leader writer, Sebastian Payne, is more inclined to look at the benefits ticket prices bring.
Written and presented by Sebastian Payne; produced, filmed and edited by James Sandy
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2018 began with that favourite of all British pastimes - moaning about the railways. The new year dawn bought us a fare hike, averaging 3.4%, that stung commuters, and raised those questions once again of how do you make Britain's railways better, fairer, and more accessible? Well, I don't think they're doing that badly at the moment.
I'm here at London Bridge Station, which is a symbol of all that is going right in the country's railways. After five years, and 1 billion pounds investment, the capital's oldest train station has been completely rejuvenated - and on time, too. It's been pretty difficult for passengers who've had to deal with delayed trains, cancelled services, and packed-out carriages.
Well, look behind me, and you can see what you have now - a symbol of the future. It's new concourse is the size of the pitch of Wembley's football stadium. There is now more capacity, easier access to trains.
The fact is, Britain does have a problem. It's a small island. We don't have the vast land to build shiny new, high-speed trains. The best we can really do to improve capacity and make the railways better is to repair what we've got. That's what's happened at London Bridge, and lots of other stations up and down the country.
Every week 130 million pounds is being spent on improving the lines. Up north, 500 million pounds is being spent on new rolling stock to make the trains more comfortable. There's not all the doom and gloom that people paint.
The franchising system that came in when trains were privatised is very complex, convoluted - people don't always understand it. But there are lots of myths about it, too. The idea that billions of profits are going off to fat cats like Sir Richard Branson is simply not true.
But of course, there is room for improvement. Ticketing needs to be simpler and more straightforward - less fixed-rates into the franchising system. And there needs to be realistic targets for passengers and revenues when contracts are given out.
Nationalising the rails is not the answer. Putting the British railways back into state control would not address the complex challenges of a Victorian-era system. But if there is better management, and realistic expectations from the government and passengers, then there is a bright future ahead for Britain's railways.