Thursday, 1 September 2011

Perks Of The Job - why rail workers should travel for free.

I came across an article in the Daily Telegraph the other day which made reference to free or discounted rail travel for those who work in the rail industry.
There was quite a bit of debate on my Facebook and Twitter feeds regarding this, especially my support for free / discounted travel for staff.
Some compared it to Sainsbury's giving their employees free shopping, but is it really the same? Is rail travel a product you can hold in your hand, or use, or eat?
The train is going to make the journey regardless of who is on it and how much they have paid.
Some in the industry work long, unsociable hours. What is the harm of letting them use the system that they work on? If we want to recruit and retain the best people to work on our railways, are we really going to be so spiteful as to say you can't use the network to which you dedicate your working life for free? Free or discounted travel is a perk of the job that says that we want to retain you and value what you do.
And is it really a problem? The majority of those with free passes received them pre 1993 when they still worked for British Rail. Are there vast numbers of these people crammed into our carriages taking up space?
Many of today's railway employees don't enjoy such perks. They've been watered down considerably.
My own view is that this is a spiteful article, which panders to the lowest common denominator argument - someone sees something of "value" and doesn't want the other person to benefit from it. The angle is that "millions of free or discounted journeys are made every year" and the report tries to link it to the above-inflation ticket rises.
Are we honestly going to believe that if we take away these well-earned travel benefits from railway staff that our ticket prices are going to come down? Come off it. This is spurious newspaper reporting at its best.
I've come across some railway employees on my travels who probably don't know the meaning of customer service. We need the best people to provide our rail network. Job motivation is a complex world, but let's start by forgetting this ridiculous jealousy-driven idea that by giving rail workers a free ride we've got it all wrong. Part of job satisfaction and motivation is surely about being proud of what you do. Free travel is a decent perk that hurts no one but says much about how staff are valued. If rail staff feel valued at least partly through such "perks", we might all just get a better service when we travel.


  1. To that Phil might I add How many times will you read of and off-duty member of railway staff stepping forward to work when something goes seriously wrong, and I can assure you that when I worked for the railway and got my free trips I would often find it impossible to avoid doing something to enhance the travelling experiences of other passengers with information or other assistance.

    And back then just how much did the taxman think my benefit was worth? Just £10 per year, because a huge number of rail workers simply did not use their rail travel perk - they showed their confidence in their product and drove or flew away on holiday!

  2. Just one little point if I may add, its that its no longer free and hasnt been from around 1993, since then we have to tax on this perk as a 'benefit in kind'
    Maybe the rail companies would like to buy this perk off the staff?

  3. Ah, wasn't aware.....thanks.(Phil)