Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Modern Anachronism -First class Train travel.

Many commuters will know the pain of being stuck on busy rush hour trains, crushed in door ways or sitting in the aisles. In wet weather they are wedged against other wet bodies, cold, wet and frustrated all the while they stare at the first class section with, in some cases twenty seats in with say three or four people.
It is a throw back to a bygone age, in today's modern classless society should there still be a first class? The very differentiation between second and first class is offensive in itself. It is bad enough that "men in suits" already give me filthy looks when I commute in a uniform with a name badge, let alone some of the condescending looks I have received from First Class whilst I have been sat in a doorway! In today's modern world we are all citizens and we are all the same and are afforded the same rights.

*Getting off my soapbox*

I can understand that some people are willing to pay more for comfort, more leg room and quiet in which to work but many more of us pay for a seat and room to work and cannot get even that. All the majority of commuters see is a clutch of empty seats going to waste. Occasionally it is declassified and sometimes I have seen people get away with a free ride in first class (usually between Victoria and Bromley South!) but for those of us who obey the rules it is just a wasted area.

Maybe another answer would be to bring back Third class. I would gladly pay less for a ticket that didn't entitle me to an actual seat but I could sit in the doorway (that I usually do) or aisle and I'm sure many others wouldn't mind just to save money and not pay for a service that isn't being provided.

Rail companies do make quite a bit of money out of first class travel, they also make a good amount from ticket mark ups from those caught in the wrong section but they need to think of the majority of travellers and they are the second class travellers who require a seat and pay a good amount of money also.

I know that the current rolling stock has the first class built into it but I would hope that companies would look to the future and remove this anachronism so that we could all travel in a fair and adjusted manner with the same rights to seating and comfort.

1 comment:

  1. Tim Harford deals with this in his book 'The Undercover Economist'. He says:

    " Some of the most extreme examples come from the transport industry: travelling first class by rail or air is much more expensive than buying a standard ticket, but since the fundamental effect is to get people from A to B, it may be hard to wring much money out of the wealthier passengers. In order to price-target effectively, companies may have to exaggerate the differences between the best service and the worst. There is no reason why standard-class railway carriages shouldn’t have tables, for instance, except that potential first-class customers might decide to buy a cheaper ticket when they see how comfortable standard class has become. So the standard-class passengers have to do without."

    Elsewhere in the book Harford highlights a similar trick by computer manufactureres. Often, the full-feature versions of hardware or software are developed first and then some costly modifications done to degrade performance of versions to be sold at a cheaper price -all to justify a premium price for the standard model.

    Harford goes on to say:

    The 19th-century French economist Emile Dupuit pointed to the early railways as an example: ‘It is not because of the few thousand francs which would have to be spent to put a roof over the third-class carriage or to upholster the third-class seats that some company or other has open carriages with wooden benches… What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from travelling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich… And it is again for the same reason that the companies, having proved almost cruel to the third-class passengers and mean to the second-class ones, become lavish in dealing with first-class customers. Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.’