Tag Archives: London

Transported: In The South West But Maybe Not For Long

Today is Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) day and it is dire news for commuters. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Mr Osborne asked the Department for Transport to prepare for cuts of anywhere between 25% and 40% to its annual budget of £15.9 billion” before today’s announcement. The Association of Train Operating Companies said that “money from train tickets pays for around half the cost of running the railways with the rest coming from the taxpayer.” The media have anticipated that the government plans to shift the costs to the passengers and we saw a lot of that in the details.

The current rate of increase for tickets is the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus one per cent which in September 2010 stands at 4.6% (down from 4.7% in August). This will increase to RPI + 3% for three years up to 2012. As we read in the CSR “some public transport fare increases will be unavoidable. This will include raising rail fares where necessary” (p.31).

The Channel 4 economics editor, Faisal Islam, wrote four days ago that the increases to rail faire could be 30 to 40% in four years. He seems to be right. The increase will not be put in place until 2012 and there is some wishful thinking about inflation falling but there is no guarantee of this.

The department of Transport will implement “overall resource savings of 21 per cent by 2014-15. … Bus subsidy will be reduced by 20 per cent and local government resource grants by 28 per cent” (p.46).

The number of people this would affect is a huge amount. An estimate of South West workers who travel by rail to work in 2008 suggests that the numbers are over 12,000. The number of bus travellers is twice that. For a glimpse of some bigger effects we need only look at travellers into the London, one of the major commuter routes from Bristol, with 510,000 people entering the city in that same year using bus or rail.

My own costs would increase by a huge amount. I currently commute by bus and train at a cost of around £5000 pre-tax. A 40% increase by the end of 2016 would mean a year-on-year pay cut as the costs increase to around £7000. That doesn’t make rail travel much of an affordable option.

inside a train

Up above and beyond

Up above and beyond, originally uploaded by still awake.

Taking the fun out of hard work

My initial feeling at deciding to run a marathon was a quiet, bubbling, enthusiastic sense of excitement. Not for the completion or the success but mainly for the practice, the training and perseverance required. I pictured night after night of going out running around the harbour, towards the train station and around Queen Square, infrequently up at the Downs. Getting rained on, legs being elevated and iced, putting the hours in, eating right, lots of carbs, lots of water, those gel energy packs perhaps.

Mainly, what I envisaged was a lot of effort – physical effort. My intention was for my body to contribute a hell of a lot to this process and in return I would repay it with some tasty food and a sense of achievement.

Instead what I encountered was a month of barely running at all. After my first week of increased training my right knee hurt so much that I couldn’t walk up or down stairs properly and I couldn’t be out walking for more than 10 minutes without needing to limp and then going home to elevate and ice.

The physical exhaustion made no appearance and instead I started to lose all enthusiasm for anything. I found runners even more mesmerising than usual and all of a sudden everyone seemed to be out there and training. My sister would tell me about her runs and a friend would remind me of how she had increased her time on the treadmill. I, on the other hand, was not out there hitting the pavement, I was sitting, or more likely lying, at home working on my leg muscles. Intellectually I knew that this was a temporary setback and I was doing more good for myself in the long run. I would hopefully be harder, better, faster, stronger by the end of it all and even more excited about training.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, I encountered a real gap in my exercise regime which, once running was elminated, was reduced to bouts of walking around town and to the station. I stopped going to the gym because the only thing I wanted to do was go on the treadmill. Instead of leaping enthusiastically into the marathon lifestyle I dibbed and dabbed into bits and pieces of advice but on a piece-meal basis. I read and followed the advice by Steve Halsall and switched to eating a proper breakfast of porridge and some fruit. I read the occasional post on marathon training and took some comfort from similar injury stories from realbuzz.com. Mostly, however, I ignored it all and hoped it would go away. I slid into a softer physique and it wasn’t hard to extend the Christmas lifestyle into January and February.

I continued to do my exercises though and this week there was no pain at all in my knee. The Bath half-marathon is taking place on March the 7th and I was asked whether I wanted to try running it. The surge of happiness I felt was incredible and I felt a little more alive than normal. The physio/osteopath guy advised that there was always some risk and that if I wanted to play it entirely safe I could avoid the half and train just for the marathon (nope!). I asked what I should watch out for and he said that if I started to hurt enough to need to alter my running then this would be a cause for concern. Ultimately though there was no pain right now and I am back to training every other day.

I went out around the harbour yesterday and according to the little Garmin I only ran 3.48km and at a little over 6 minutes a km. A voice in my head kept saying, does that even count as a run? Yes it bloody well counts as a run!

Now I just need to raise £1000 for GAN but that’s another post for another day.