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Author Topic: How to turn around loss making rural lines?  (Read 2135 times)
grahame
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« on: June 12, 2019, 04:49:09 am »

https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/how-to-turn-around-loss-making-rural-rail-lines

By Adrian Quine ... "a Non-Executive Director of the Settle to Carlisle Development Company Ltd and the author of a submission to the Williams Rail Review on turning around loss making rural lines."

Quote
From the north of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall loss-making rural railway lines are embedded in the landscape. Epitomised by slow, infrequent clapped out trains often carrying just a handful of passengers they wind their way from somewhere to nowhere. Inefficient, unappealing and ultimately underused it’s understandable why many question why such lines continue to be a ‘drain on the public purse’.

However, the reason for these lines survival is complex. Most of these routes are purely ‘social’; to even suggest closure would be political suicide. So successive governments have simply given up and have resorted to instructing franchise operators to provide the bare minimum level of service.

However, such a negative approach is short sighted. Private companies might run the services but with the regulatory brief so restrictive and narrow focused there is no ability for the  companies to show entrepreneurial flair. If the state can’t or won’t make a go of it then it needs to allow the private sector – or at least a partnership between the two – to have a go.

Conventional wisdom dictates that rural lines are loss making basket cases. But such narrow focused ideology is to miss a trick. After three months of painstaking forensic analysis of the Settle to Carlisle route, what was widely assumed to be a loss making liability in fact turns out to make a small profit.

etc

Some pricing and timings to help inform discussion:

Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
About 40 miles / 100 minutes each way / round trip price £125 approx

Leeds to Carlisle
About 125 miles / 165 minutes/ round trip fares £30.80 to £59.20 before railcards

Fort William to Mallaig
About 45 miles / 120 minutes / round trip fare by "Jacobite" £37.75
About 45 miles / 80 minutes / round trip fare £15 to £21.30 by other train
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2019, 12:10:13 pm »

Hopefully, in a few years, we'll all be able to look back on this perspective and sigh. Rural railways don't lose money, they cost money - just as rural roads do. The cheeseparing and lack of entrepreneurial flair are largely due to the way we choose to view these things:  through a neoliberal glass darkly.
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broadgage
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2019, 02:18:19 pm »

Hopefully, in a few years, we'll all be able to look back on this perspective and sigh. Rural railways don't lose money, they cost money - just as rural roads do. The cheeseparing and lack of entrepreneurial flair are largely due to the way we choose to view these things:  through a neoliberal glass darkly.

I agree, rural railways DO cost money, and within reason this needs to be accepted. Just as rural electricity supply costs money.
I suspect that some rural railways would cost less if they were better run, but a profit seems unlikely.

Run trains at times that people wish to travel, no more nonsense of two trains a day neither of which is at a useful time.
Use suitable rolling stock. This does not need to be expensive, but no more standing on single car units whilst 2 or 3 car units are stored.
Ensure that trains connect with other trains and with buses.

The biggest saving IMHO would be some sensible relaxing of main line safety standards for lightly used branches.
I am not convinced that all the latest safety standards are actually needed for branch lines.
As an example, if an older type DMU can safely carry passengers from Bishops Lydeared to Minehead, without TPWS, OTMR, CSR and so on, why cant a similarly equipped but SLIGHTLY newer unit also carry passengers on a branch line ?

I also see a future for battery trains and for diesel/battery hybrids, these could be usefully trialed on lightly used rural lines, with a view to wider use.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 09:17:35 am by broadgage » Logged

A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2019, 02:29:43 pm »

I read that article immediately after reading that my local area is to lose another of its more rural bus routes without any ability to object against the decision.  It used to be hourly from early-ish morning until mid-evening, then went to five return trips a day three or four years ago before being completely withdrawn this month.

We are very fortunate that railway TOC’s are committed to operating a minimum set number of services on all routes and can’t just remove communities from public transport like they can with little notice on bus routes.
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2019, 10:00:31 pm »


Run trains at times that people wish to travel, no more nonsense of two trains a day neither of which is at a useful time.
Use suitable rolling stock. This not be expensive, but no more standing on single car units whilst 2 or 3 car units are stored.
Ensure that trains connect with other trains and with buses.

The biggest saving IMHO would some sensible relaxing of main line safety standards for lightly used branches.
I am not convinced that all the latest safety standards are actually needed for branch lines.
As an example, if an older type DMU can safely carry passengers from Bishops Lydeared to Minehead, without TPWS, OTMR, CSR and so on, why cant a similarly equipped but SLIGHTLY newer unit also carry passengers on a branch line ?

Single car units might be the most suitable though for lightly used lines, or whilst a service is building up traffic.  I think that was the case for the Melksham line?  Maybe it would never have got its improved service if it had to bear the cost of a longer train.

I can't think of any line in the GWR region has the nonsense of two trains a day (and I don't think there are any single car trains here any more) so are you talking in the past or about now?

I suppose you would be happy for speed to be limited to 25mph like it is on preserved lines too?
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2019, 07:31:08 am »

The original article highlights what I would describe as an extreme case - one of the prettiest lines through just about the most remote parts of England - and looked at applying the same lessons across a far wider range.  But they overlook just how different lines are.  They also seem to make an assumption that because most of the people seen on the train by most travellers are tourists that there's no local / social traffic, and also that the tourist traffic ie not price sensitive.  The two national network examples I quotes are 12p and 17p per mile (and many people can get a 34% discount); the heritage examples are 42p per mile (UK) and 160p per file for the overseas one.  You may have a better business - if you loose half your passengers at the higher fare, you still take more money, and you can run shorter trains too.  What you do is hit the associated economy and your kill virtually all social use.  As you do if you also remove the quieter trains. 

I thought carefully before I posted the original article which failed to address the elephants in the room to the extent I see it as rather silly/provactive, and also dangersous as it may attract followers who don't appreciate why it would not work and indeed do collateral damage, and hw it would not extend well.  I posted to allow people to see if they shared my thoughts, and to add comments that actually test it on our own little forum.
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2019, 07:55:26 am »


Run trains at times that people wish to travel, no more nonsense of two trains a day neither of which is at a useful time.
Use suitable rolling stock. This not be expensive, but no more standing on single car units whilst 2 or 3 car units are stored.
Ensure that trains connect with other trains and with buses.

The biggest saving IMHO would some sensible relaxing of main line safety standards for lightly used branches.
I am not convinced that all the latest safety standards are actually needed for branch lines.
As an example, if an older type DMU can safely carry passengers from Bishops Lydeared to Minehead, without TPWS, OTMR, CSR and so on, why cant a similarly equipped but SLIGHTLY newer unit also carry passengers on a branch line ?

Single car units might be the most suitable though for lightly used lines, or whilst a service is building up traffic.  I think that was the case for the Melksham line?  Maybe it would never have got its improved service if it had to bear the cost of a longer train.

I can't think of any line in the GWR region has the nonsense of two trains a day (and I don't think there are any single car trains here any more) so are you talking in the past or about now?

I suppose you would be happy for speed to be limited to 25mph like it is on preserved lines too?

"Two trains per day lines" only exists on GWR on their service to Brighton, via Eastleigh, and from Filton Abbey Wood on the direct line to Keynsham. There are certain station stops where other trains are passing through but there are two each way (or less!!) calls.  I don't see any of those lines / services generating a new economy based on Andrew Quine's Settle and Carlisle example, and they all have alternative operators or routing available.

There are no longer single carriage trains on GWR; Celestial mentions the 1 car for Melksham - yes, they are great for trial services on their way up ... their predecessors were known as "Coffin Nails" because they became the last trains on so many lines before closure.  There's a view at the DfT (ACoRP Lincoln talk a couple of years back) that there is no future for single carriage trains - to make services have more sensible finances, they really need a wide enough flow at some time of day/week/month/year to require multiple carriages.   They helped, for sure, for the TransWilts which quickly filled them on the way up.  If they had not been available ... hypothetical but I suspect we could have won a 2 car from day one, but subject to stock being available as there was a real shortage at that point. £600k per annum up to £750k per annum to support for years 1 to 3 - yes, I think LSTF would have stretched to that.

Outside GWR ... there are other lines with just 2 services a day or less ... and indeed I have travelled a number of them (recently) so that I'm aware.
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broadgage
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2019, 03:52:50 pm »


Run trains at times that people wish to travel, no more nonsense of two trains a day neither of which is at a useful time.
Use suitable rolling stock. This not be expensive, but no more standing on single car units whilst 2 or 3 car units are stored.
Ensure that trains connect with other trains and with buses.

The biggest saving IMHO would some sensible relaxing of main line safety standards for lightly used branches.
I am not convinced that all the latest safety standards are actually needed for branch lines.
As an example, if an older type DMU can safely carry passengers from Bishops Lydeared to Minehead, without TPWS, OTMR, CSR and so on, why cant a similarly equipped but SLIGHTLY newer unit also carry passengers on a branch line ?

Single car units might be the most suitable though for lightly used lines, or whilst a service is building up traffic.  I think that was the case for the Melksham line?  Maybe it would never have got its improved service if it had to bear the cost of a longer train.

I can't think of any line in the GWR region has the nonsense of two trains a day (and I don't think there are any single car trains here any more) so are you talking in the past or about now?

I suppose you would be happy for speed to be limited to 25mph like it is on preserved lines too?

I was considering not just GWR services, there are still single car units, and twice a day only services on a number of routes.
A 25 mph limit might well be acceptable on short branches is this makes the service more affordable. 40 MPH would be preferable though if achievable. Even at the dizzying speed of 40 MPH I am not convinced that all the latest safety features are needed for a lightly used route.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
TonyK
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2019, 06:16:16 pm »

"Two trains per day lines" only exists on GWR on their service to Brighton, via Eastleigh, and from Filton Abbey Wood on the direct line to Keynsham. There are certain station stops where other trains are passing through but there are two each way (or less!!) calls.  I don't see any of those lines / services generating a new economy based on Andrew Quine's Settle and Carlisle example, and they all have alternative operators or routing available.

The Filton Abbey Wood to / from Bath Spa was largely for the benefit of the many hundreds of people transferred from Foxhill in Bath to the brand new MoD place, with its brand new station. For other ways to reinvigorate rail lines, you could do worse than look at the Severn Beach Line, which proved that demand meets supply back in 2009.
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Now, please!
grahame
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2019, 12:01:56 am »

Amusing moment in a video this evening (GWR Conference) which was taking about how services numbers and passenger numbers have blossomed since privatisation ... showing Lelant Saltings as their background picture. I wonder if anyone else noticed the irony in this!
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