Stop crying! At least there are trains, said JEFF PRESTRIDG

Brian Collins, a reader from Flintshire, North Wales, told me to stop whining about the poor train service I currently experience most working days traveling from Wokingham to London.

I will not groan more than to realize that my train was an hour and four minutes late last Monday morning. Snow, not RMT’s Mr Lynch, was the theme this time (I’ve holed up in London since).

Brian says that for the past 60 years he has had to deal with the fact that his local railway line, which runs from Chester to Denbigh, no longer exists. It was closed to passengers on April 30, 1962.

Fond Memories: Reader Brian Collins' local railway line was closed to passengers in 1962

Fond Memories: Reader Brian Collins’ local railway line was closed to passengers in 1962

He says: “I live in one of the big parts of the UK that has absolutely no rail transport. When our petrol station closed, it temporarily became a builders’ merchant and most recently a Tesco store. Should I ever want to use a train, I would first have to take a bus or taxi or drive (and presumably pay for parking through the nose) to the nearest train station, which is at least 20 miles away.’

He continues: “I have no experience of delays, leaves on the track or fires on the track because I haven’t used the train service in this country for over 20 years.

“I once had the idea of ​​taking the train to Edinburgh to see my niece’s one-woman show at the festival (Anna Morris, since you’re asking) but once I found out what the price was , I flew for much cheaper and got the tram directly from the airport to the city center, very convenient!’

He concludes: “For large sections of the population the service you expect is not available and has not been since the cuts in Beeching and in our case even before that. So no, I don’t have much sympathy for the plight of the privileged southern commuters with their oh-so-integrated transport system. You may have had to wait for a train for a while, but I – and my compatriots from the north – have been waiting for a train at our station for the last 60 years.”

That put me in my place. It only remains for me to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Regardless of train delays, I’ll be back on New Year’s Day – and I promise not to whine.

Will Metro be forced to trim its branches?

On the subject of banks, Metro Bank lost some of its luster last week when it was fined £10m in 2018 for publishing false financial information.

Challenger bank Metro set new standards in 2010 when it became the first new major bank in more than 150 years. It has invested heavily in building a network of stores – with stores that are huge, welcoming, and staffed with people willing to please.

But since early 2019, when the bank first acknowledged its accounting error, Metro has been in savings rather than gung-ho mode. Although it now has an impressive 76 branches, the bank has not been immune to closures. In June it closed its branch in Earls Court, west London – a branch I used occasionally but which is now boarded up.

At the same time, branches in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and Windsor in Berkshire were also eliminated.

With a possible recession looming and a share price of around £1.10 – a fraction of the £40 price they fetched in 2018 – a further cut in the flamboyant branch network cannot be ruled out.

A dying art… Rob’s 6,000 pictures of UK bank branches

Reader Robert Montgomery has spent the last 13 years photographing bank branches, often just before they are demolished. He has traveled across the country by train for his hobby, although RMT’s Mick Lynch has temporarily suspended his activities.

Robert, who lives near Heswall on the Wirral in Merseyside, was employed by NatWest as a junior clerk for five years growing up, working in six different offices in the Liverpool area. Although he later became a bus driver, he never lost his love for banks.

As a result, the 68-year-old has amassed a library of around 6,000 photos of bank branches — and he kindly made some of them available to me over the past year.


Bygone Era: The Lloyds and NatWest offices in Reigate, Surrey

Bygone Era: The Lloyds and NatWest offices in Reigate, Surrey

“It’s a hobby,” he told me last week. “I’m a die-hard collector and am fascinated by banks, whether it’s the architectural beauty of some of the branches they run – or used to run – and the checks they used to write.” I asked Robert to share his (former) favorite branches to name. These include Lloyds and NatWest offices in Reigate, Surrey, which closed in August 2019 and June 2018 respectively. Magnificent buildings.

Although the Lloyds branch has since been converted into a Gail’s bakery, NatWest’s premises have yet to find new tenants.

Despite being a prosperous town with a plethora of independent businesses, Reigate will lose HSBC – its last bank – by August next year.

The city will then depend on the Post Office and the Nationwide Building Society for high street banking. Barclays and Santander withdrew from Reigate earlier in the year and 2019 respectively.

Assuming the trains are working again, Robert will continue his hobby until 2023. But with increasing closures – 619 already this year – his opportunities for photo opportunities are rapidly declining. Keep grabbing Robert.

Thanks for listening Mr Bond…

NS&I boss Ian Ackerley appears to be an avid reader of The Mail on Sunday, despite our recent criticism of his organization for poor customer service.

Seven days ago, at the urging of readers, I called on Mr. Ackerley to raise the premium bond pricing rate, which was sitting at a rather unattractive 2.2 percent. “Pull your finger out and increase the premium bond winrate,” I said. “A sentence around the 3 percent mark would be enough to start with.”

It seems the plea caught on with Mr Ackerley as he munched on his cereal breakfast (topped with bananas) last Sunday. The result? An announcement two days later that the pricing rate would indeed be increased to 3 per cent from January, meaning bondholders would have an additional £80m in monthly pricing available. Although the number of £25 monthly prizes will be reduced as a result of the move, more higher value prizes will be available. For example, the number of £50 and £100 wins will both increase by almost 60 per cent.

Mr Ackerley says the generosity of his organization is a “great opportunity” for bondholders to “start 2023”. Hopefully the rate will rise again at some point to reflect last Thursday’s decision by the Bank of England to raise interest rates to 3.5 percent.

Thank you for reading the MoS, Mr. Ackerley. Happy New Year to you.

retirement pain

Transferring the value of a defined benefit pension to a defined contribution plan has long been controversial. Just last month, the city’s regulator announced a redress plan for former members of the British Steel Pension Scheme who received inappropriate advice on switching from a group of predatory financial advisers.

But it seems that such transfers meet a slow death. According to pension adviser LCP (Lane Clark & ​​Peacock), just 15 per cent of those currently seeking transfer value are now acting on it, one of the lowest take-up rates in more than seven years.

According to the LCP, the decline in remittances is due to a variety of factors: greater regulatory scrutiny, a lack of financial advisors willing to arrange them, and less compelling transfer values ​​(a function of high Gilt yields). His own analysis shows that the average transfer rate in the third quarter of this year was £252,000 – up from £330,000 in the previous quarter.

Pension transfers with defined benefits can still be worthwhile, especially for sick people. There are also tax planning benefits. However, for the majority of people, they are now a no-go area.

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Janice Dean

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