Travelling in London is nearly three and a half times more expensive than Paris and 10 times dearer than in Rome, according to research by the Campaign for Better Transport.
With successive Governments in Britain allowing fares to rise faster than inflation, the gap has also been widening in recent years.
OK. Simple, factual, information, we like that in these sorts of handwaving reports.
“In many other countries, the state chooses to subsidise the railways more heavily than in Britain. In this country, the long-standing government approach to sustain investment in the railways is to cut the contribution from taxpayers and increase the share paid by passengers.”
Now there is an argument in favour of some (note, some) taxpayer subsidy of the commuter railways in and around London. The place simply wouldn’t work without them, there are, or would be, horrible externalities from everyone trying to get in by car etc.
There’s also an argument against them. Without them we’d almost certainly see a reduction in the importance of London in the national economy as some business that must be done in cities spread itself around the other cities of the country. And yes, one of the interesting structural features of the UK economy (too much to call it a “problem” but you will note that many do in fact call London’s dominance a problem, one that would be reduced by reducing these subsidies) is that London looms larger in it than most other capital cities of most other European nations do.
That’s the argument in favour of some subsidies. But what level should those subsidies be (and note, there is no argument at all, no, not even about carbon emissions, for the subsidy of intercity lines)?
More than others? Less than other European capitals? Well, actually, the argument about the right level of subsidies is sweet FA to do with what anyone else is doing. Actually, it’s about, what level of costs are we avoiding by using rail to commute and what’s the minimum subsidy we can get away with to avoid those costs?
For, do note, the “subsidy” is actually taxes paid by someone on Lewis (nearest railway some tens if not hundreds of miles), in Mousehole (still waiting for the 18 th century and trains to arrive) and Twerton (local station closed in mid-70s).
How much should all of these people be paying to make London work? No, I don’t know the exact answer either but it’s got bugger all to do with what the people of Messina pay to make Rome work, Marseilles to make Paris, does it?