Re: Good Thing (TM)
Trains aren't that shit to be honest. I spent 5 years commuting by train, for 4 hours a day. Occasionally something really unexpected happens, and you get stranded for 2-5 hours in the middle of nowhere - that happened to me just once.
Infrequently, the first branch service would not show up, because the train didn't end up in the right place the night before or overrunning engineering works. Branch services definitely aren't as reliable as main line services, but if your main line train is delayed, they'll often delay the departure of the branch line to compensate.
The only thing bad about the trains are the cost and the overcrowding. The former is only necessary due to the latter. Everyone tries to get on trains that arrive between 8 and 9 am, with later trains basically deserted.
I suspect that it is all rigged so that commuters all travel at the expensive time - there is no significant benefit to taking a later train if you travel most days, the season ticket is the same price. This then constrains the off-peak price, because if they lowered it too much, commuters would travel later and buy individual day tickets (which would, incidentally, solve those overcrowding issues on the trains and tube and lead to a more even flow of passengers throughout the day, but hey, less money, so lets nix that one).
Here's my list of desired features from the train companies:
1) Flexible season tickets - I want to buy a season ticket of 30, 60 or 90 non-consecutive days, especially as I am expected to work from home two days out of every five.
2) Flexible walk up pricing on non-peak trains - if the train is empty, it shouldn't cost you more than £1 to ride it.
3) When I give you £6000 for a years season ticket, and in return you give me a machine processable token to get through entry gates, then the token should be durable and resilient. A paper card with a magnetic strip that lasts 2 months tops (1 month if its also a tube travelcard) is not sufficient.
3a) Stop making me carry my photocard, embed it in the ticket