On behalf of students who miss home, please make train tickets cheaper
A railcard just isn’t going to cut it
Listen, this may be the clearest fact in the world, the most glaringly obvious ever, more conspicuous than being drunk in the queue for a club regardless of what your also drunk friend says to reassure you, easier to predict than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wearing a really tight grey t-shirt in an action film, but here it goes. Students are pretty broke.
Speaking from experience, I ended my first semester at uni with 72p in my bank account. I did have £2.72 on the second last day of term, but I bought Doritos (Cool Original) and dip (Hot Salsa), which were on offer at £1 each, to impress a girl. That's right. Me, with £2.72 in my bank account, thought spending all but the last 72p I had in the world on Doritos and dip would impress another human being. Eighteen-year-old me was a fucking idiot.
The fact of the matter is, students are generally poor and depend on student loan to survive. The majority of that loan goes on rent, unless your parents are able to support you. But if you don't have that option, it means you have even less of that already small chunk of money to live off.
Yeah, you can get a job, I did and it worked out well for me, I no longer had just £2.72 in my bank account, but it isn't always as simple as just 'get a job'. Getting a job requires making a commitment of time and energy, on top of that already, quite expensive commitment of time and energy to university, and when you have university work to do and your mental health is on the line, sometimes a job is just out of the question.
So say, for instance, you pay your own rent, you don't have a job, you rely on student loan to live – then how the fuck are you meant to afford a train ticket home?
With reference to the 72p incident of December 2015, I had to ask my Dad to drive from Northumberland to Sheffield to pick me up and take me home for Christmas. I just couldn't afford a train ticket home. It costs quite a lot of money for me to go home, even if I were to book in advance. A return to Newcastle from Sheffield costs around £35-50 or more depending on when it's bought and at what time you go. And I don't even live in Newcastle, I live 25 minutes away. To get a ticket to a station near where I live is often nearly £60, and the only other alternative is to get an hour long bus journey that costs £5. And that's just to get home. In total, going home and then coming back to uni can cost anywhere between £40 and £70.
For that amount of money I could pay half my rent, or I could buy my Mum one of those mad gin calendars that you just know every Mum in the UK is getting this Christmas. Perhaps I could join the gym, perhaps I could just save the money and, you know, eat properly for a while. £40 to £70. I only live two hours away, dammit.
With that in mind, what happens when students from Scotland who live in England or Wales want to go home, or vice versa? What happens if your family live in the back-end of Kent? What happens if you go to uni at the opposite end of the country?
I did some research into how much it would cost for students in other situations to get a train from one major city to another. For a return from Edinburgh to Manchester, it would cost £52.15, and that's off-peak and with a railcard (which costs £30). Fancy seeing your family this weekend? What about an off-peak return from London to Manchester? Nope, it costs £57.35. Liverpool to Norwich to see the fam? £85 – fuck you. The fact is, students are priced out of train tickets.
I would see my family a lot more often that I currently do if it didn't cost so much, because at the end of the day I need to pay rent and I need to eat. That's what it's starting to come down to – see your family or eat properly. What is this hell we are living in?
Yes, some may argue that it is a choice to move so far away from home, that no one is forcing you to move so far away, why didn't you just go to a university closer to home? And to that I argument I say this – a student flew to London via Barcelona to go home because it was cheaper than a train ticket. This has nothing to do with distance. If I can fly to Barcelona for cheaper than a return ticket across the Pennines, then there is a problem. And you never know, the flight may be more likely to be on time.
Of course, there is the option of coach travel. Oh, hope! But I checked the price of a return ticket from Edinburgh to Manchester, which would cost £52.15 on the train, and with a company like Megabus it would cost £56. Oh, nope! THAT'S MORE EXPENSIVE. DAMN.
Not a day goes by when I don't wish I saw more of my dog. I often find myself feeling guilty over the fact that my Grandparents are only getting older and I only get to see them twice, maybe three times a year. My parents offer to drive down and see me, but why should they have to take time out of their busy lives to travel all that way to see me?
But this is the cold hard truth – I can't go home as often as I'd like because I can't afford to, and I can't be the only student in this position.
Yes, university education is a privilege and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to spend three years making mistake after mistake after mistake until I say fuck it and make another mistake. But university education shouldn't mean isolation from your family, and until train prices are lowered, that will continue to be the case. I miss my dog, dammit.