Trains Like Europe

I’ve frequently heard about how great the trains are on the other side of the pond, so when I had lunch with a fellow from outside Manchester, UK recently, I asked him how many people take the train to London as a commute.

“Oh, plenty, but not me,” was his answer. Probing further, I found the reason was he couldn’t afford it.

The trains are apparently so popular and the roads so congested, that simple supply and demand have driven the fares sky-high. He told me that commuting to London, a bit less than a 2 hour trip, would run about a thousand dollars a week. Some big firms cover these costs for their day-trippers.

Half-disbelieving, I figured I’d run the numbers myself. I searched for that trip, on a weekday, commuting hours, and asked for the cheapest fare, steerage class. Turns out the cheapest round-trip fare is £230. Google says that’s about $455.

While granting that there is probably a frequent-traveler discount, I can take a 2-hour commuter bus round-trip from here to Boston for $40 as the posted rate. $32 is the ‘monthly’ rate.

So, I’ll assume my lunch partner’s numbers were a bit old, or at least his exchange rate. Taking the train in the UK like this is in all likelihood $1600 per week affair, or about 10 times the cost of commuting in the US.

Consider this the next time you hear we ought to have commuter trains like they do in Europe.