Travel – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Last week I attended a conference in London for two (non-consecutive) days.  I decided that the easiest and most environmentally friendly way of getting there would be by train – no worries about getting lost (!! although I managed this anyway) or congestion charges.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

First, the good.  I booked my tickets online and the process went smoothly.  I opted to travel from Long Buckby which is the closest station (I thought about Rugby, but that doubled the price) and managed to get a one day travel card incorporated into the ticket – bargain!

The journey – the first day was fine.  I discovered that the train from Long Buckby went all the way to London, but took about 30 minutes longer than the Virgin Pendolino service that was non-stop from Northampton.  I opted for the Virgin train as I had to be in Lambeth by 8:30.  The train was quite full, but there were some seats.  I got to London on time and negotiated the tube OK.  Coming back I had to catch the London Midland train which stopped at various places on the way.  This was busier (until Milton Keynes) and slower, and then I still had to get home from Northampton.  

The second day was a different story.  I only had to be there for 9am, but the Virgin train was cancelled, so I stayed on the train from Long Buckby.  The train before this one had been cancelled, so it was busier, and there was a break down further down the track, so it was late.  I got into London 30 minutes later and the tube was heaving.  I had to wait for three before I could squeeze on (thank you to the woman who stood in the entrance blocking the way with her suitcase – not!).  When I got to Lambeth the roads were also noticeably busier, but I reached the venue with a couple of minutes to spare.  The journey back involved a race across London to get an earlier, direct train to Long Buckby – again down to standing room only, but better than sitting in Northampton station at 7pm.

The thing that surprised me (not having commuted for years and certainly not to London) was the sheer volume of people that move around each day, each year.  

The tube works amazingly well considering there are about 2.7 million people using it each day (figure taken from Tube Life).  But my question is, why are we making that many journeys?  The figure of 2.7 million doesn’t include those who drive, walk, take the bus, these are just people using the underground in London.  When I look at the trains, these were all full, as were the platforms at the stations we passed through.  Then, when I listen to the travel news, the roads are all full.  When you add the fact that there are 200 million airline passengers each year, it seems as though we are all on the move.

So, my questions are as follows:

Where are we all going?

How many of these journeys are really necessary?

The trains to and from London are packed – why are there not more trains?  In particular, if there is a direct train from Virgin that gets to London by 8am, why is there not one from London to Northampton (OK, I would allow it to stop in Milton Keynes) between 5 and 6pm to take all of the morning commuters home?

Why does it cost twice as much to travel from Rugby to London as from Northampton to London?  Is it because most journeys from Northampton have to be with London Midland, and Virgin, whilst being much faster, is also much more expensive?  (The direct train to Long Buckby with London Midland also stops in Rugby.)

Why is there not a better transport policy in Daventry to take people to and from Long Buckby station so I wouldn’t have to take the car at all?