Saturday, October 15, 2005

Two major rip-offs

Firstly I went to Birmingham last night (to perform at the fantastic Glee Club, which is not a rip off at all but a really lovely comedy club...). However due to not checking out times and prices in advance I had to go with Virgin trains. Return from London Euston to Birmingham... £100! Seriously, and that's standard class, not business or first or whatever! Surely government watchdog people checking train fares shouldn't be allowing that sort of thing? Then on the (two and a half hour last train) journey back the intercom system was broken and every 30 seconds there was a deafening "PING-PONG" noise as if an emergency announcement was about to be made. So no chance of sleeping or concentration on my paper. Just made me really irritable, grrr...

The other incident which I was able to laugh at was that the drinks trolley came round and I asked for a cup of tea to which the woman replied "I haven't got any stirrers so if you want sugar I won't be able to stir it". Fair enough but she said this deadly seriously while the train was rocking about from side to side like a rollercoaster. "I don't think stirring is going to be a problem", I replied clinging for dear life to the arm rest. She looked at me blankly and poured me a tea.

Rip-off number two though is the new identity cards... £30 for the basic card and £93 for the accompanying passport. Even the lower £30 is a lot of money for people like elderly women receiving a fraction of the already pathetic standard pension. And without the card they won't even be entitled to healthcare... There are a lot of more worthwhile causes I can think of who would really be able to put this money to good use.

On top of this no-one seems to be quite sure what the point of the cards is. Clearly they'll do little to combat terrorism since all the London bombers were British citizens. And they open up carte blanche for would-be identity thieves to simply steal the card and not need to bother with learning the signature and figuring out the pin numbers, proof of address, etc. I don't want to pay £30 (or more likely £93 if I ever want to travel) for the right to be arrested and randomly locked up if I mis-place my card. I don't much want my irises scanned or fingerprints taken either thanks. It's totally intrusive.


Stephen Newton said...

£100 London to Birmingham sounds about right. If travelling further north, Manchester say, you should consider flying. It's no quicker door-to-door what with security etc, but is often the cheapest option.

Cruella said...

Well I won't even start on explaining the environmental consequences of needlessly flying short-haul. You must be accustomed to Virgin trains though if you didn't flinch at that. Being from Suffolk I am more used to the Anglian railways and Great Eastern services. They are a lot better value. And they serve Adnams...!

Iceman said...

"Well I won't even start on explaining the environmental consequences of needlessly flying short-haul."

Part of the problem is that many airlines and airports are heavily subsidized by the same governments that have neglected their rail systems, making air travel far more common than it would be in a "free market", let alone if its users had to internalize the environmental costs.

Train travel is far more fuel efficient and emits far less carbon per passenger mile than planes, and high-speed trains can be as fast as a plane over short distances when you consider the fact that many airports are way outside of cities and then you have to go through the time-consuming hassle of airport security. Compare the Eurostar from central London to central Paris to flying Ryanair from Stansted Airport to Beauvais Airport. Most EU nations should have very few domestic flights.