Crowd wisdom in solitude


On Tuesday, I started reading The Wisdom of Crowds in the ironic setting of an empty train.

I decided to travel from London to Manchester by the marginally slower Midland Mainline. Under the disastrous privatisation of our railways, the main route to Manchester fell under the spell of Richard Branson and his Virgin Trains have fallen well short of expectations. The last time I travelled Virgin the ride was at times rollercoaster-like over badly maintained track. The other – possibly trivial – memory was of being served instant coffee at breakfast. I was left underwhelmed by the mismatch between promise and reality.

One of the alleged benefits of rail privatisation was that it would introduce more competition. In most cases this has proved illusory, though not on the London Manchester route. I compared fares and found I could go First Class with Midland Mainline for less than half what Virgin asked for, for a journey time only 10 mins longer at the time of day I was leaving.

In return, I got a very pleasant journey

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