Another year, another hike in commuter costs.
I’m starting to look at places to buy a property. Our budget is relatively modest, but since we’d like a second bedroom, there’s a whole 3 zones in London already out of our sights.
When I tell people we’re looking to buy, the question of proximity to work is high on the list of discussion topics. While it’s probably risky to make an investment on the basis of where you currently work, it’s a fair question. If not for the destination itself, then the quality of the journey: how long to walk to the nearest station/stop; underground (with all the compacted humanity and lack of natural light that entails) or overground (which has the benefit of a view but the drawback of fewer trains per hour); is there a possibility of cycling or even walking to work?
The sheer cost of travel can make an affordable suburban investment into a monthly drain on income. But sometimes the journey is less time to somewhere outside London than somewhere that lets you tap in and tap out.
I’ve doodled with the sums and worked out we could get a three-bed house with seafront views in Hastings for the same price as a studio flat in Kings Cross. However, the annual railcard cost would be nearly 3 times more than an annual Oyster card for multiple zones. Or if Essex is more your style, an annual fare from Colchester (less than an hour direct into Liverpool St) is a thousand pounds more than the journey from Hastings. I don’t think we’ll be moving out of the big smoke just yet.
Friends and colleagues that live outside London often take at least one day working from home. Not because it saves them money, it saves them time: time better spent with their kids or partner, spent not sitting on a train for an annual outlay equivalent to the cost of studying for a Masters.
What pisses me off is that the transport companies hold us to ransom every year. They know we have to get to work somehow and with only one set of train tracks for each journey, it’s a captive market. It’s not fair.
But life, and society, isn’t fair. The fact our current government seems happy to casually deny legal rights to people that can’t afford it not only reflects this fact, it exacerbates it. It really surprised me to learn that Network Rail doesn’t have share-holders, it is technically not-for-profit, and yet here we are with another hefty January rise in the cost of rail travel. Perhaps if we could see the costs of improvement, have a public forum that shows where our money is invested, it might be less painful. But I pay up anyway, because that’s the price of travel.