A public transport system that you can depend on can certainly make or break a country. The public transport system in the Philippines is, sadly, almost non-existent because there doesn’t seem to be a system. So when I moved to the UK, I was so glad that there was a public transport system you could depend on. There were train schedules and you knew exactly how long your train journey was. There were bus schedules on bus stops, and you had to know which stop to wait for a bus so that you would get on the right bus. You could travel quickly around London by using the Tube and you knew, roughly, how long your journey from point A to point B would be. The staff at the train stations and on the trains were very professional and were often very pleasant and very helpful.
But as with all things, there is a price to pay. Since I moved to the UK, there’s been a fare hike for trains. And for me, it’s gone up a minimum of 4% every year for the past nearly 5 years that I’ve been in this country. In the beginning, I didn’t mind paying the fare but then I started noticing the cracks. Trains servicing our line were old, smelly and sometimes filthy (there would often be coffee and an assortment of food stains on the upholstery and the carpeting and if you were really lucky, there would be signs of vomit on the windows! Yuck, I know! And you’re only reading this, I have to travel on these trains!). The trains were delayed or there would be last minute cancellations. The excuses were hilarious sometimes, depending on the season: in winter, the usual excuse was that it was the wrong kind of snow to lay on the tracks; during the summer, I’ve heard them say that it was the wrong kind of heat! Last year, there would always be some kind of delay, some sort of signalling problem somewhere delaying my train to or from work. I didn’t mind so much the train ride home being late because it was the end of my day, but it would be such a hassle for the train service to be delayed in the mornings.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have it better now that I have had in the Philippines. The public transport system in the UK is far more organised. I would love it if my countrymen would be blessed with a public transport system even half as good as what people in the UK are now experiencing. Buses and bus companies that aren’t concerned with how many passengers they have on their buses, and focus more with following the speed rules and getting people from point A to point B safely but efficiently, traffic signs followed and not just put up for street decoration, proper bus stops and an MRT and LRT system that is even more efficient (although mind you, I have always enjoyed MRT rides, even when it was packed and I and my fellow commuters resembled sardines! Truth!).
I am not exactly ranting about the fare hike. I get it. For the improvements tha we want, we have to pay for it, even if the government subsidises a huge chunk of the developments that have been proposed. I get that developments cost and unfortunately, the government can’t foot the bill completely. But there is a part of me that wishes that the developments were more tangible, starting with a cleaner carriage, maybe? One that is less smelly? One that is less packed?
I renewed my season ticket today, mindful of the fare hike that was announced. January’s season ticket was £12.00 more expensive than last December’s season ticket, and I was pleasantly suprised that it wasn’t what I expected to be. I don’t mind so much because I understand the realities. But some part of me still wants to see a little bit more value for the money that I fork over to Greater Anglia each month.
As I get on the train each day to go to work, I’m hoping that I will notice the improvements. Because I want to see my money making some sort of difference to the quality of my daily commute.