ON MONDAY, I joined the commuters on the 7.29am train from Basingstoke to London Waterloo.
Last year, I made the exact same journey, and it was a miserable experience – I was squashed in with other passengers, without a seat, being thrown about from side to side on a hot train with barely enough space to take my coat off.
Unfortunately, a year later, it wasn’t much better.
I still failed to find a seat and was forced to stand with other passengers, boarding at Basingstoke.
It was slightly less busy than last year, and I managed to find a spot in the carriage, which is at least air-conditioned.
But I struggled to find a comfy standing position where I could hold on to something without bashing my bag into someone seated.
I began wondering whether I might have been better suffering the sweltering temperatures outside the carriage, where I could perhaps lean against a wall.
But I stayed put, unable to do anything other than concentrate on not falling over until the journey ended.
My return ticket cost £37.30, an increase of £1.50 from 2012. That is 82p for every minute I spent on the train.
My feet ached from standing, as I became increasingly annoyed, impatiently counting down the time until we reached Waterloo.
If I regularly commuted to London, I imagine I would very much resent the thousands of pounds paid each year to travel on an uncomfortable journey on an overcrowded train.
Prices at the busiest times are higher than at any other point in the day, yet passengers on these peak trains appear to receive the worst service.
Last year, the annual cost of a ticket from Basingstoke to London Waterloo increased by £212, from £3,580 to £3,792. And this year, the price went up again, by 4.4 per cent to £3,960 – an increase of £168.
Any commuter travelling further than Waterloo now has to pay £4,704 for a season ticket, an increase of £204 (4.5 per cent) from £4,500 in 2012.
It is the 10th year running that rail fares have increased more than the rate of inflation. South West Trains said the rises are determined largely by Government policy, with funding for railways coming from either the taxpayer or the passenger.
Government policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the trains.
Emma Knight, senior group communications manager for Stagecoach Group, said that over the coming year, South West Trains will begin a roll-out of over 100 additional carriages as part of a £120million investment programme, funded in partnership with the Department for Transport.
She added: “This will create capacity for over 23,000 extra-peak-time passengers every day and will benefit passengers in Basingstoke.”
Only time will tell whether this makes a real difference for Basingstoke commuters, but until then, they will have to put up with paying for high-cost travel for what I feel is a poor service.