An open letter to the Fat Controller or whichever thief runs the trainsAnother day another shoddy service

Dear Fat Controller, or whoever you are that runs the trains this is an open letter from yet another weary and fleeced traveller.

I am not very sure who I am writing to and let’s face it that’s quite deliberate as we never get to know do we? as you remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy letting your poor staff take the heat. Your squelchy, lard ridden frame stuffed full of caviare and pound notes remains a secret as you siphon and hoover up all our money.

Today has been a particular nightmare Mr. Controller.

It has cost me £330 to travel from Manchester to St Austell, which I believe to be in Cornwall and not in the USA. Maybe my geography is a bit confused but Cornwall is not that far from Manchester but with a fare like this it feels like it must be thousands of miles away.

I know this is the so called ‘peak fare’ but I would like to know how you justify such a rip off Mr. Fat Controller. Surely even someone as greedy as you must flinch at these prices and at this service?

The irony is that one of the connections I had to make on the way there is now so late that I will end up getting there the same time as if I had got the ‘normal’ train if I’m lucky. It’s given me plenty of unexpected time to write this open letter, hours of extra time in fact. £330 to sit stationary in the middle of Birmingham extra time whilst you try and work out what to do. Worth every penny you legalised criminal.

I have so far avoided these peak price trains in my long suffering travelling by train existence. They were always mystery and I have often wondered Mr. Fat Controller what you actually get extra for this amazing price hike.

Sat here it looks like nothing.

So far things like free wifi, lack of over-crowding, a seat where my knees are not jammed into the seat in front of me, a plug that works (the plug I am using here by my seat doesn’t work) and ventilation don’t seem to be materialising.

Frankly, Mr. Fat Controller, I would be expecting these things for the so called ‘standard’ price. For £330 I would at least be expecting the train to get there on time, a carriage of my own, free five course meals, a butler, a spa facility and maybe even ownership of the train itself and I’m not even in first class. I don’t believe in first class.

None of these things seem to have materialized and I am trapped on the usual shoddy, late service. We are actually going backwards now. I realise that this is not a problem for you. The money is the bank for you isn’t it Mr. Fat Controller? Shoved up your nostrils and piled up in your sweltering bank account.

Maybe, Mr Fat Controller, you can give me a refund? After all I am not getting what I paid for here. But I’ve been through this one before and the arcane and Byzantine refund system can be as confusing as the varied ticket prices that you try and confuse us with.

I know I could have got this cheaper if I had booked months ago, or maybe if I had flown, or walked but we don’t always know we have to be somewhere do we Mr. Fat Controller? Do you understand this?  Do you ever travel by train? I really feel that you don’t. I feel that you sit in your limousine laughing at us travelling in your cash cows.

Where does all the money go? You don’t pay the people who work for you properly so is it must be all pouring into your offshore bank account.

A lot of the other Fat Controllers have been in the news a lot this week arguing over who runs the ‘lucrative’ west coast line. I’m not sure why we have to be called ‘lucrative’ like we are sheep to be herded across the platform and quite literally fleeced in its modern meaning of the word.

For years I have put up with the slowly improving service and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff who have always been really good. Travelling from Manchester to London I had worked out the system of avoiding morning and afternoon trains where you, Mr. Fat Controller, push the fares up to the what we wearily call, comedy fares.

I’ve been in that Friday evening rush at London Euston station where 3000 people sprint across the platform to try and catch the first train that runs at the lower of your rip off fares. Today, though, is a new low as I am trapped inside you shoddy, pathetic and over priced system and it’s running hours late and I’m made to feel like that this is my fault.

I have spent years chuckling at your TV ads where a really comfortable and not crowded train glides through the countryside as you claim cheap fares. And yes those fares do exist if you have hours on end to plough through the website looking for the one train fare per train that doesn’t make your eyes pop out.

The train should be the greatest form of transport and a train system that works is one of the basic functions of a civilized country. I have travelled on European trains and they are quite fantastic and cheap. And on time. Not here though.

This letter has been prompted by all the dead time I have got on my hands now because your system doesn’t work properly. You are not accountable Mr. Fat Controller. Just rich. With the £330 train fare I feel like I have been pillaged by a gang of be-suited Vikings, fleeced by the smooth handed devil creatures who pick our pockets at every turn like the bankers who laugh at us at every turn.

I hope you are satisfied fixed Mr. Controller. Because I’m not.

Yours, £330 and several hours lighter,



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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Amen to that Mr Robb. I travel by train to London from Blackpool. Virgin were bad – First is going to be a whole lot worse. Had to laugh at the news as they unveiled 40,000 more seats a day, free healthcare for all and a blow job if you have to change more than once.

    It won’t happen – it will be shite.

  2. Damn right. It’s a disgrace. Hunting down cheap fares is like finding The bloody Beach – someone met someone else who heard someone had a map.

    To be ‘fare’ (ho ho), as you point out, there has been slow improvement, but the increase in fares has been entirely disproportionate.

    Not sure what I feel about Branson losing the West Coast contract: Virgin trains were cramped, airless and over-priced but they were bloody fast. To be honest, most of the time, I ended up taking the much cheaper (less than half) and much slower (over twice as long) East Coast line. But then I am very tight: only this morning I gouged a thumb sized lump of mould out of a piece of bread rather than throw it away!

    The trains should never have been privatised in the first place, but since they’re unlikely to be renationalised any time soon, we need a regulator with teeth to set fares at an affordable level.

  3. The system should never have been Privatised. We pay more to subsidise companies than we did before. At the very least the companies should be awarded contracts based on their benefit to the public.

    Instead we get First putting forward an incredibly risky bid that gets accepted because they pay a bit more money. Well where the fuck do the government think that money is going to come from? Your average train user will carry on paying many times more than our European equivalents, not get any service improvments, and then when their unrealistic bid screws them it will us that has to pay to bail them and the system out.

    Virgin were no means perfect, but they invested in trains, and actually gave the only truly decent service I have ever experienced since the alright Midland Mainline were stripped of their franchise to be replaced by the horrific East Midlands Trains (I spent 10 months getting a train that 75% of the time was half the size it should have been).

  4. Amen. i have dear friends in Manchester and Scotland. they are even dearer these days. if by chance i want to go up and see them to have a few pints, I’m looking at 70quid to Manchester and 150 to Glasgow. you can drive to Gent in Belgium for 30quid. fucking shambles. time for fairer capitalism. Will Hutton know’s where its at. read Us and Them if you haven’t already, and then beat the fat controller with it

  5. Hi, enjoyable as ranting is, I think you are confusing 2 different issues.
    A train may be delayed for all sorts of reasons that might or might not be to do with the rail company: someone throwing themselves in front of a train, a lorry hitting a bridge, fire beside the line etc etc. That is common to all transport. However by the company does have an obligation to get you to your destination, and putting your personal inconveniance to one side about an unavoidable delay that security that comes with the contract when you buy your ticket should be appreciated and valued.
    The second issue is the price. £300 is a lot of money, I agree, and our rail fares are high in europe, and I should like to see them come down.
    BUT, you paid 300 for for 678 miles of guaranteed travel, or about 44p a mile. Which less than the cost of driving a car. You are aware that you could have done the journey for less under other circumstances.
    So whats the complaint again?


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