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Author Topic: End of the Monday-Friday commute? Transport watchdog calls for urgent rail fares  (Read 2398 times)
grahame
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« on: July 03, 2020, 08:20:38 am »

From Politics Home

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End of the Monday-Friday commute? Transport watchdog calls for urgent rail fares reform

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive | Transport Focus
03 July

Independent watchdog Transport Focus has written to the Secretary of State for Transport calling for rail fares reform.

Transport Focus’s latest Travel during Covid-19 survey shows people’s travel patterns have changed and are unlikely to return to the typical Monday-Friday commute any time soon.

Half of people in the survey of 2000 people expect to work from home more often in the future and more than a third (36 per cent) think their job will be homebased with limited travel to their workplace.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic Transport Focus is urging the Government to reform the fares and ticketing system to offer better value. This could include more flexible season tickets or ‘carnets’ (which offer a discount for multiple journeys when bought upfront) for people returning to work part-time in the office and to suit the way people travel now.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2020, 02:06:47 pm »

Just a thought: traditionally, blue-collar workers travel to work an hour or so earlier than white-collar workers. Many do this because that's what their contract demands, but others (for example self-employed plumbers, builders and so on) do so to beat the traffic. In general, white-collar workers are more likely to be able to work from home, thus freeing capacity in the peak. Will we start to see manual workers starting their day a bit later?

I'd be more than happy not to have to get up at the crack of dawn next time the electrician calls. At the moment I struggle to get up before the crack of noon...
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2020, 07:29:28 am »

From Politics Home

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End of the Monday-Friday commute? Transport watchdog calls for urgent rail fares reform

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive | Transport Focus
03 July

Independent watchdog Transport Focus has written to the Secretary of State for Transport calling for rail fares reform.

Transport Focus’s latest Travel during Covid-19 survey shows people’s travel patterns have changed and are unlikely to return to the typical Monday-Friday commute any time soon.

Half of people in the survey of 2000 people expect to work from home more often in the future and more than a third (36 per cent) think their job will be homebased with limited travel to their workplace.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic Transport Focus is urging the Government to reform the fares and ticketing system to offer better value. This could include more flexible season tickets or ‘carnets’ (which offer a discount for multiple journeys when bought upfront) for people returning to work part-time in the office and to suit the way people travel now.

If this comes to pass as the survey suggests, and there's a pretty good chance it will, whilst it will be a more pleasant experience for those who are travelling by train, surely overall it will be catastrophic for the railways in terms of demand/revenue?
« Last Edit: July 04, 2020, 07:53:08 am by TaplowGreen » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2020, 08:51:04 am »

It will certainly be a game changer for the railways, who will need to shift their emphasis quite dramatically and the industry will need to change how it is run.  It is an industry very slow and reluctant to change.  Catastrophic is probably rather too dramatic a word however.

It will mean bigger changes for some franchises (or whatever evolves from those instead) over others - SWR, Southern, SouthEastern and c2c, will need to adapt more than Avanti West Coast or Cross Country.  GWR sits rather in the middle, though I suspect FirstGroup are more than happy to have recently offloaded most of the Reading to Paddington journeys to TfL Rail.

I’ve said on here recently that it’s not all bad news in that hundreds of carriages that solely exist to provide for the a couple of hours a day probably won’t be needed, so many operators will be able to streamline their fleet and increase productivity of what remains.  That being said, it’s not ideal that so many operators have recently ordered new trains based on commuter demand forecasts that are now very unlikely to be met.  I can see the scrap merchants being very busy in the coming years!

It is a very troubling time, though compared with the airline industry I think the railways are in quite good shape!
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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2020, 08:53:11 am »

If this comes to pass as the survey suggests, and there's a pretty good chance it will, whilst it will be a more pleasant experience for those who are travelling by train, surely overall it will be catastrophic for the railways in terms of demand/revenue?

If it means that the demand is spread more evenly throughout the day wouldn't there not be some substantial cost savings though?  No more trains parked up waiting for the peak etc.  

Someone beat me to it...
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2020, 09:42:09 am »

If this comes to pass as the survey suggests, and there's a pretty good chance it will, whilst it will be a more pleasant experience for those who are travelling by train, surely overall it will be catastrophic for the railways in terms of demand/revenue?

If it means that the demand is spread more evenly throughout the day wouldn't there not be some substantial cost savings though?  No more trains parked up waiting for the peak etc.  

Someone beat me to it...

Those trains still need to be serviced/maintained/driven (unless you're sending them to the scrapyard?), however I guess there is a potential for staff savings too with fewer of them trundling around.

"Demand spread more evenly" is one way of putting it, but in commercial terms it's a huge drop in peak commuter traffic, season tickets etc (bunce), with off peak traffic leisure travel staying pretty much the same?

It'd be interesting to see some modelling based on the suggested figures.

I'd suggest that GWR should look at improving their customer offer for their leisure routes, and increase services wherever possible to make it a more attractive option than the road/plane. It could be an opportunity for them, although as II suggests, the railways are not known for their adaptability or ability/willingness to change.



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« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2020, 12:42:04 pm »

I'd suggest that GWR should look at improving their customer offer for their leisure routes, and increase services wherever possible to make it a more attractive option than the road/plane. It could be an opportunity for them, although as II suggests, the railways are not known for their adaptability or ability/willingness to change.

Yes indeed, and that was hinted at in the reply to a staff question about the Pullman that I posted the other day, as well as being talked about to the staff by the acting MD. 

Off peak frequencies have improved considerably over recent years across most franchises, so the industry is heading in the right direction there - though subsidies will continue to be required for most of the leisure dominant routes, so it all depends on the structure the government decide upon for the railway after the current emergency measures system ends. 

It will remain an incredibly important part of the fabric of the country for social and economic reasons even if commuter numbers are considerably hit.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2020, 03:02:36 pm »

I think that there might be an elephant in the room here.

If we work on the basis that commuter travel is unlikely to fully recover, then as already been said, this will have a negative effect on TOC revenues.

Further fare rises to make up the shortfall would not be widely appreciated, and could easily lead to diminishing returns as potential passengers find cheaper ways of making their journeys, not least by increasing the use of private cars.

This will mean cost savings. The usual immediate target for such savings is staffing. Whilst perhaps a few less train crews may be the result, I wonder whether this would be sufficient. Other savings would need to be found.

To take a couple of examples from my neck of the woods, plans are currently afoot to re-hash the forecourt of Chippenham station. Plans include changing the shape of the short stay and staff car parks, and widening the pedestrian access. Personally, even with my lousy eyesight, I can’t see anything wrong with the existing arrangements; no pedestrians need to walk into the road for need of wider pavements. Cars can happily park now and the buses can easily use their turning space, something that could actually be made easier by moving the 55 bus stop, because buses on layover there can make that turn difficult.

Moving a bus stop would improve the situation for a lot less that the Lord knows how much the fully-blown plan has been costed at.

There are also plans to provide a lift on the northern side. Unlike the changes to the forecourt, this will benefit a lot of passengers entering the station from this direction. But I understand that NR have quoted in the region of £1million for doing it.

£1 million for a two-storey lift shaft? When you don’t even need to buy any land to put it on? How many houses could you build for that sort of money?

Perhaps what urgently needs to be dealt with in Network Rail’s profligacy with other people’s money. A reduction in NRs costs could feed through to reduced track access charges, and perhaps that may be where the largest savings could be made.




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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2020, 03:15:04 pm »

I'm not sure how common it is on other routes but on Thames Valley the absence of 'fast' trains outside the morning peak is probably the biggest factor for me around shifting my working hours. Now there's some fast and semi fast in the evening out of London it would be good to extend that in the morning.

I could start work at 11 if I wanted but it adds 30 minutes to my commute which on what is already around 3 hours a day travelling and that's just a bit too much more. Equally I do occasionally start extra early but the first 'fast' train in the afternoon is just before 5PM. And its was very crowded as its quicker to catch than earlier trains.

Perhaps if demand is down it would be possible to provide a more 'smoothed out' timetable with the extra carriages which in turn might promote more flexible working.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2020, 05:01:29 pm »

If you were to even out the peaks you can make a huge difference in running costs.

A while back ( http://www.passenger.chat/23543 ) I did a fictitious study of a line from "A" to "B" find that the current cost of service provision was £24.76 per passenger journey, but levelling out the peak could reduce that to £18.44 or even £15.30 ... stunned silence on the Coffee Shop to my post, probably because it was very long, very technical, and didn't start with a management summary.

If - over the next decade or two - peak traffic were evened out, and passenger numbers grew, we could so easily end up with a much more cost effective system.    But that's counted without inflation and not allowing for Robin's spiralling Network Rail costs.

The reduction of the peak in relation to the rest of the day (in the figures above) shows just how much of a service community rail promoting leisure travel can be.   Just take care that a peak reduction for a year or two doesn't lead to a loss of resource that's then very expensive to build back.
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2020, 05:07:16 pm »

If you were to even out the peaks you can make a huge difference in running costs.

A while back ( http://www.passenger.chat/23543 ) I did a fictitious study of a line from "A" to "B" find that the current cost of service provision was £24.76 per passenger journey, but levelling out the peak could reduce that to £18.44 or even £15.30 ... stunned silence on the Coffee Shop to my post, probably because it was very long, very technical, and didn't start with a management summary.

If - over the next decade or two - peak traffic were evened out, and passenger numbers grew, we could so easily end up with a much more cost effective system.    But that's counted without inflation and not allowing for Robin's spiralling Network Rail costs.

The reduction of the peak in relation to the rest of the day (in the figures above) shows just how much of a service community rail promoting leisure travel can be.   Just take care that a peak reduction for a year or two doesn't lead to a loss of resource that's then very expensive to build back.

Graham looking at the given context from the survey "Half of people in the survey of 2000 people expect to work from home more often in the future and more than a third (36 per cent) think their job will be homebased with limited travel to their workplace". - how do you arrive at a scenario where passenger numbers grow?
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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2020, 05:35:48 pm »

Graham looking at the given context from the survey "Half of people in the survey of 2000 people expect to work from home more often in the future and more than a third (36 per cent) think their job will be homebased with limited travel to their workplace". - how do you arrive at a scenario where passenger numbers grow?

People in a survey will look forward perhaps 3 years;  I was looking ahead "a decade or two".   

Take a look at growth over the last 25 years.  Add to that the move to being ever more climate friendly, where using public transport becomes more admired and less of a stigma if you "have to" use it.  Perhaps put in a generous portion of vacations within the UK rather than flying. Look at the supply of new homes needed  - House of Commons briefing paper Number 07671, 9 March 2020 on Tackling the under-supply of housing in England:
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Household growth is one factor affecting overall housing need. The number of new households in England is projected to grow by 159,000 per year, based on current trends.
• The backlog of existing need for suitable, affordable accommodation is often cited as another pressure on housing need, as is demand for more space by households that can afford it.
• There has been a range of research into the amount of new housing needed, with estimates as high as 340,000 new homes per year.
• The government’s target is to supply 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s
• There is geographic variation in household growth and housing need, with more need in London and the south of England.
and whilst some of those relate to smaller households, much relates to rising population.   So although journeys per person may be be flattish, journeys overall is likely to increase.
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2020, 05:47:59 pm »

Graham looking at the given context from the survey "Half of people in the survey of 2000 people expect to work from home more often in the future and more than a third (36 per cent) think their job will be homebased with limited travel to their workplace". - how do you arrive at a scenario where passenger numbers grow?

People in a survey will look forward perhaps 3 years;  I was looking ahead "a decade or two".   

Take a look at growth over the last 25 years.  Add to that the move to being ever more climate friendly, where using public transport becomes more admired and less of a stigma if you "have to" use it.  Perhaps put in a generous portion of vacations within the UK rather than flying. Look at the supply of new homes needed  - House of Commons briefing paper Number 07671, 9 March 2020 on Tackling the under-supply of housing in England:
Quote
Household growth is one factor affecting overall housing need. The number of new households in England is projected to grow by 159,000 per year, based on current trends.
• The backlog of existing need for suitable, affordable accommodation is often cited as another pressure on housing need, as is demand for more space by households that can afford it.
• There has been a range of research into the amount of new housing needed, with estimates as high as 340,000 new homes per year.
• The government’s target is to supply 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s
• There is geographic variation in household growth and housing need, with more need in London and the south of England.
and whilst some of those relate to smaller households, much relates to rising population.   So although journeys per person may be be flattish, journeys overall is likely to increase.

None of which really addresses the issues of seismic changes in working habits.

Given rapidly evolving technology, which even at this stage has enabled so many to carry on working at home almost seamlessly over the last few months, I struggle to see a scenario in which over "a decade or two", there is a resurgence of people clamouring to return to the office, but I suppose it's a possibility.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2020, 06:45:15 pm »

I struggle to see a scenario in which over "a decade or two", there is a resurgence of people clamouring to return to the office, but I suppose it's a possibility.

Perhaps my eyesight is worse the usual this afternoon but I can’t find the sentence where he said that. I think he is arguing that public transport usage may increase for environmental reasons, not because of an increase in commuting.

I would, however, take a counter view to “Perhaps put in a generous portion of vacations within the UK rather than flying.” The main reasons for the growth of bucket and spade continental holidays had more to do with the vagaries of the British weather and a short summer season resulting in higher prices to allow the traders to make a living. Neither of those factors have changed
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2020, 06:54:23 am »

I struggle to see a scenario in which over "a decade or two", there is a resurgence of people clamouring to return to the office, but I suppose it's a possibility.

Perhaps my eyesight is worse the usual this afternoon but I can’t find the sentence where he said that. I think he is arguing that public transport usage may increase for environmental reasons, not because of an increase in commuting.

I would, however, take a counter view to “Perhaps put in a generous portion of vacations within the UK rather than flying.” The main reasons for the growth of bucket and spade continental holidays had more to do with the vagaries of the British weather and a short summer season resulting in higher prices to allow the traders to make a living. Neither of those factors have changed


The survey which was the subject of this thread and gave it its context referred specifically to changing working practices, a reduction in commuting and consequent huge fall in passenger numbers. As I read it (wearing my glasses, which equally may need testing!), Graham suggested that people may only be looking a few years ahead in respect of these habits and that attitudes may change in the longer term.

Then you "add to that" the more climate friendly aspect of rail travel versus some other means etc as other factors.

Agreed re: holidays, as the sudden surge in bookings for foreign/beach holidays as restrictions lift is demonstrating.
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