You will, I am sure, have made your New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions.
If you are anything like me they will follow a well-worn and predictable pattern.
*Stop smoking (three weeks in and going well, yippee)
*Lose weight (Miserable failure so far. I am the size of a small Ukrainian tractor plant which is currently undergoing an extension)
*Get fit (Does carrying a 24-bottle pack of Stella up three flights of stairs count?)
Research suggests that 25 per cent of resolutions are broken in the first week alone and fewer than half last the first six months of the year.
I’ll bet I can guess which group those commuters who resolved to give our UK railway network one last chance this year fall into already.
Protests at the traditional start-of-the-year fare increases show just how toxic a brand our railways are becoming.
The fare hike, which averages more than three per cent and comes at a time when punctuality is at a 13-year low, follows on from last summer’s disastrous timetable changes which saw an almost complete meltdown of services in some parts of the country, and means us Brits are now spending up to five times as much on season tickets as our chums across the Channel.
As an eye-watering example consider this: A season ticket from Birmingham to Euston with Virgin will cost £10,900 – a 36 per cent increase from 2010.
Closer to home, the new operator of trains along the Shropshire/Wales border has been forced to take out full page ads in the local paper to apologise for the poor quality of its service, which has seen passengers unable to board already overcrowded trains.
There is something of a myth surrounding PR that a bit of spin can help solve any crisis.
A good agency could run a campaign about record investment in infrastructure, the modernisation of rolling stock and improvements to stations around the country to show just what a splendid job our railways are doing, the thinking goes.
But if your train arrives late more often than not, so that you don’t get to work on time or miss having dinner with the children at the end of a hard working day, you simply don’t care.
There comes a point when a brand’s toxicity takes on a life of its own and develops an unstoppable momentum.
We may not be quite at that point yet with the railways, but a few snow flurries in the next few weeks or a shower or two of the wrong sort of rain might just prove to be the tipping point.
Then we’ll all be on the wrong track.