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Author Topic: Public transport, Climate change, Coronavirus and Brexit. Crystal Ball Time.  (Read 1295 times)
grahame
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« on: October 18, 2020, 08:55:40 am »

I'm interested in this whole balance of climate, travel, fuel, etc, how it needs to go forward, and how the current pandemic provided a problem, an opportunity and a stimulus.

I'm going to question the need for (and benefit of) speed - or should we say the effect of speed in making for shorter journey times - in the future.  Regular, five day a week, travel has been slashed and a journey that was (say) 45 minutes in 2019 and made 10 single times a week in 2019 - 450 minutes - could well be allowed to slide to 55 minutes in 2021. The GWR Stakeholder conference talked on Friday of an average of just under half the journeys (2.47 round trips per week) looking ahead, so even with an extension to 55 minutes the 450 minutes on a travelling train reduces to 270 minutes - a saving for the traveller of 40%.  Selective additional stops in trains that have traditionally bypassed many stations may reasonably allow enhanced journey opportunities, allow substantial frequency increases where such stations have seen nearby residential or destination growth, and allow the reduction of some truly local services.  A local example in my own area, the addition of a stop at Dilton Marsh on all Cardiff to Portsmouth services, saving the Warminster shuttle resource permanently and giving hugely increased travel opportunities and a boost to the economy of that station's catchment.  With this line being part of Network Rail's electrification core proposals, we have the spectre of a a green improvement from the service rationalisation leading to a further greening as the power source changes, and a regaining of the earlier faster timings too bearing in mind the better acceleration from all station stops - including Wilton for Stonehenge which will be open and served by these trains in the (railway term) "near" future.

Now - business meetings are also way on down. That long distance traffic is slower to "return" to previous levels with many finding that online meetings while not always as effective in some aspects can be far more effective in many ways, can be held more frequently, and are much more time effective. And when travelling, business people can be making far better use of their time than in the past.  "Reading papers" has turned in to a much more efficient working online; the office turned into a "home office" due to coronavirus for many also becomes the moving office on the train.  So I look at journeys on the London - Swindon - Bristol route (for example) and ask whether the model for the coming decade should be a service every 30 minutes with 5 or 6 intermediate station calls, and that a 15 minute service with just a couple of intermediate calls in alternate trains would be expensive overcapacity - a queue-buster when there is no queue to be busted.  For sure, a 15 minute service inward from Swindon, clock-face, all calling at both Didcot and Reading, perhaps (if I'm going to provoke discussion) with one call each at Grove, Maidenhead, Slough and Hayes and Harlington.   Old Oak also comes into play within the decade, and we were flagged up on Friday that the issues of serving that without it becoming a slowing / pinch point are already on the GWR radar.

Leisure traffic is seen as being much more prominent in the future and in GWR land "we are fortunate in having so many lovely places and possible destinations" - I am paraphrasing Matthew Golton there.  In the summer, the most heavily loaded trains - the causes of concern on social distancing - were from Bristol to Weston, and to Weymouth, in the morning and back at the end of the day - a reversal of the pre-covid norm.  Buses were laid on to supplement trains from Liskeard to Looe and from St Erth to St Ives.  But while that traffic is 7 days a week rather than 5, it was also seasonal and has only commended lower fares.  But the leisure traffic seen returning - or indeed new in place of overseas holidays - has lacked the empty-nesters and active retired market for the most part - those who are at a higher risk of serious damage if they catch coronavirus than younger people.  A small proportion have returned and those who have feel safe and are re-assured by the extra precautions and regimes, but the vast majority took the "do not travel" message of the spring and early summer and are still following it.  At present, the railways are informing and letting people know that the services are safe, running and useable - but the diktat is "no promotion".  A very great deal of work has been done on fare systems and changes and new offerings, but all is on hold while the treasury does a comprehensive spending review, and I would be surprised to see any announcements for another month - simply quoting the rail minister (Chris Heaton-Harris) from last Friday there. So - no great predictions or suggestions from me; as yet a "don't know" as to whether the positive rail use steps that will enable optional travel rail use for most of the year will come soon, or too late.  "Let's think about what we're doing" is sensible - but not beyond the point where we need to act but miss the opportunity because we're still just thinking.

I started writing this forward look to answer comments about the need to "green" or "zero carbonise" long distance travel, where fossil fuel aircraft and a whole industry have been built around markets that are decimated at the moment, and many consider unlikely and undesirable too to grow back to where they were.    A quick look at flight destinations from my local (Bristol) airport last year showed up many internal flights in the UK, flights to Ireland and other nearby EU destinations, and holiday flights to "The Med" with a few longer distance ones.   The rail industry lost much of its long distance (250 mile-ish plus) traffic to air over the past couple of decades and franchises such as Cross Country have become much more regional radial services. Plymouth to Dundee (or Aberdeen again soon) services still run, but the number of passengers making the journey on them from south of Birmingham all the way into Scotland has become low. Prices, comfort, seating issues, journey time, lack of a restaurant, diesel rattle and fumes, and the constant turnover of passengers and crowds around the long distance traveller have all been negative factors. Long distance London services have revived somewhat, and to the extent than even from Bristol to the north of Leeds and points north, some choose to travel 2 sides of a triangle via London.

Long distance travel within the UK mainland offers an opportunity for rail over coming years in replacing air miles by rail miles, and replacing car miles with rail miles too - though I am not sure that I see signs of that being done / promoted outside the London radials, for which HS2 surely forms part of the plan.  I wonder about a handful of services each day - in the way airlines offer services only by the handful - from the South West (Plymouth, Newton Abbott, Exeter, Taunton, Bridgwater, Weston, Bristol, BPW, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Worcestershire) to Carstairs, Stirling, Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen - electric all the way from Bromsgrove to Carstairs and marketed from local station to local station - my Melksham to Coatbridge Central journey an example, catering perhaps short of the steak and port level, but certainly such that one arrives ready to get right into activities rather than immediate need of rest and recovery.  With the capacity-boosting super-fasts on hold, rolling stock might be available quite easily, and for similar services from East Anglia too.  How about Amsterdam, Rotterdam to Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Swansea to Munich. Glasgow to Paris, complete journeys all and perhaps - just perhaps - cross platform connections at London International to give not three service opportunities but nine?

It will be interesting to see to what level the weeks holiday in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus or Tunisia returns.  Or taking the family to Orlando, or trips to Dubai, Bangkok or New York. No easy option in many cases other than flying - but should we, could we, will we see the Brits headed for Skegness not Spain, Torbay not Turkey, Bath not Bangkok?  Replacing incoming tourists from Louisiana to London, Wichita to Windsor and Trump Tower to Turnberry.  Long haul tourism has had a mighty shock this year, and for next year is there an opportunity not for staycations but for the British to travel to the places in Britain their Grandparents would have gone?   And how is public transport aligned for this - with a need for capacity reallocation across our and other areas, and bus operators bracing themselves for an upsurge in English pensioners with ENCTS cards.

For travel to Ireland, and offshore islands, air travel will (I guess) make a proportionately greater return that for journeys within the same landmass.  Yet even there in many cases there are opportunities.  It's heartbreaking to see and use - or try to use - land and sea based transport from Melksham to Limerick or even Dublin to London.  But that future is so hard to predict and thus to plan for - Climate, Covid and Brexit all being waves that are changing our habits, offering both risks and opportunities.

Swinging full circle, local and regional transport - near metro style may well look to benefit and grow back and beyond what it was more quickly than the long distance and international traffic; a good thing for our carbon footprint where we need to consider not only number of journeys and the carbon cost per mile, but also the miles of each journey. During Friday's sessions, comparisons were made between rail opportunities - frequency, numbers of people making the journey - between neighbouring cities.  Manchester to Leeds, Glasgow to Edinburgh, Bristol to Cardiff.   And that latter came out as poorly served indeed - 2 trains per hour versus 3 or 4 or more.  Far from a new conversation, but the way remains open and strategic planners becoming ever more receptive to a 15 minute metro service calling not only at existing calling points used every day by existing trains, but at other new and refreshed points too right through from the Cardiff 'burbs to Severnside and South Gloucestershire and business parks which will still be people's place of work 2.47 days per week and so to the Bristol 'burbs and beyond swinging out to the seaside at Portishead, Weston, and - Watch it - there may be other places too.

I have painted a very wide picture - inspired to write from what I've see locally in Melksham and in Swindon, from what I head from GWR, Network Rail and the Minister on Friday, from the news, and what I have read from community members online both on this forum and elsewhere.   Members are welcome to agree or disagree and debate the thoughts and ideas.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2020, 09:31:36 am »

With reference to your first paragraph alone, I think we should be cautious in proclaiming the long-term decline of commuting. Firstly, we're still a long way off the "new long term" when we go about whatever without a thought for lockdowns and distancing. But secondly, what we do see is complicated: a lot of firms are urging their employees back into the office, for all sorts of real or spurious reasons from efficiency to mental health, and a lot of people want to go back to the office. The two don't always align, of course.  Undecided And for those making a commute, 55 minutes a day is still 55 minutes a day... I think we'll probably see a significant amount of office downsizing and sell-offs in the next year or two but also a continuation, not always willing, of traditional Monday to Friday commuting for a substantial chunk of the population, while others work complicated rotas. "Complicated" is the only definite so far...
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2020, 12:48:05 pm »

"Complicated" is the only definite so far...

Yes - I totally agree with that, certainly for long term.

Quote
With reference to your first paragraph alone, I think we should be cautious in proclaiming the long-term decline of commuting. Firstly, we're still a long way off the "new long term" when we go about whatever without a thought for lockdowns and distancing

Very much so ... GWR talked on Friday of 5 timetables in 6 months (or was it 6 in 5?) and what is provided for and required for 2021 is likely to be effected in use and definition by ongoing pandemic issues, and by the other still-changing effects of it.  By ... 2024 ... perhaps we will be past lockdowns and distancing, or accepting of them for the very long term and no longer putting any "life issues" on hold until its over.

Where passenger number remain thin, and that thinning out is not uniform, services need to reflect the needs of the thinner market and treasury limitations imposed - noting the the Rail Minister is being held back at the moment on the implementation of ticketing changes because of a "comprehensive spending review".   And I'm suggesting that hourly local / regional services are a bare minimum; I would rather have long-hours services every 60 minutes from Cardiff to Portsmouth, perhaps taking 12 minutes longer over the whole run as 3 stops are added, than a service with just six of the 8 diagrams running (so occasional 2 hour gaps); two local diagrams can be saved instead and for those people on the train on the extra-stop sections, sure, add 3 minutes per stop.  In fact they're well spaced and the traffic that's going to get the frustration of all 3 extras is long distance stuff.
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2020, 12:48:23 pm »

With reference to your first paragraph alone, I think we should be cautious in proclaiming the long-term decline of commuting. Firstly, we're still a long way off the "new long term" when we go about whatever without a thought for lockdowns and distancing. But secondly, what we do see is complicated: a lot of firms are urging their employees back into the office, for all sorts of real or spurious reasons from efficiency to mental health, and a lot of people want to go back to the office. The two don't always align, of course.  Undecided And for those making a commute, 55 minutes a day is still 55 minutes a day... I think we'll probably see a significant amount of office downsizing and sell-offs in the next year or two but also a continuation, not always willing, of traditional Monday to Friday commuting for a substantial chunk of the population, while others work complicated rotas. "Complicated" is the only definite so far...

I agreed. Also remember how small a proportion of travel is rail.  Even with a reduction in travel a model shift could easily make up the difference.  Some people are seeing this as an opportunity to move out of the city with perhaps a less frequent journey to the office, which may add up to similar route miles. Whatever happens it seems quite likely that travel patterns will be different just difficult to predict in what way.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2020, 01:06:24 pm »

I think the best way to start my contribution to this thread is to make three general points and then reply to some of the detail.

Firstly, now is not the time to make predictions. Nobody currently has any idea about what the situation will be after this pandemic, if indeed there is a recognisable end as such at all. To pinch a quote from Barak Obama: ?one side can?t pronounce the end of a war because the enemy gets a vote.?

Secondly, whilst it is understandable on a railway-orientated forum that matters are looked at in a railway-orientated way, national policies are (or should) be made by people who take into account the wider pictured. I don?t expect to make many friends by saying this, but it is especially notable on the topic of reversing Beeching, where people campaign for reopening schemes that are completely impractical and any public transport shortcomings can be provided in equally as efficient and cheaper ways. For the avoidance of doubt I especially have in mind Bude to Okehampton where there are currently empty roads for much of the year and a two-hourly bus service that actually serves intermediate communities rather than stop in a field three miles away. You could provide a 20-minute interval bus service, increasing public transport provision by 600%, at a minuscule fraction of the cost of a rebuilt railway.

Thirdly, the lesson we learn from history is that we don?t learn lessons from history. We usually stopped doing things in one way because more efficient ways of doing it came along. We will not be going back to the ways our grandparents did things any time soon ? we have private cars now that many of our grandparents didn?t; we have broader horizons than they had and, most crucially, we tend to have more disposable income than our forefathers.

It is all very well proposing that Cardiff to Portsmouth trains stop at Dilton Marsh, for example, but what about other places en route? What about Pilning, or Severn Tunnel Junction, or Ashley Hill, or St Annes, or Wilton Parkway, or Woolston and all the other places they currently run through non-stop? It would not take much increase in journey times on that route to make travelling by road a quicker option, So you may well cheer up the good folk of Dilton Marsh, perhaps even those residents would wouldn?t use the service anyway, but you wouldn?t cheer up the residents of Wylye who couldn?t cross the A36 because of the increased traffic. You will be aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Gerry Fiennes was aware of this 60 years ago. There was a school of thought in the 1950s that ran that, with the new more powerful diesels, the market could be catered for by fewer but heavier trains running to existing schedules. Fiennes made the point that a train taking the best part of three hours to do London to Cardiff would get no traffic at all after the M4 had opened. With the general improvements in roads over the last 60 years this is even more relevant today.

Given that the UK is a collection of islands, leaving it has always been a problem with surface transport. Until the Channel Tunnel was built it always involved changes of mode (eg train/ boat/ train) and this made it time consuming and often expensive. Air travel has solved this, and it would be a brave politician indeed who told people they couldn?t fly, or increased taxes on air travel to force them not to, and indeed a politician who wanted a new job after the next election. In those days air travel was reserved for the super rich, and not something that the average dustman from Stockport could even have contemplated. Those days are gone, and gone for good.


Our grandparents tended not to leave these shores because it was expensive and time consuming, they may not have had sufficient holiday entitlement to make such a journey anyway, and most ordinary people who had travelled to other countries found themselves up to their necks in muck and bullets when they got there, which wouldn?t have left a very good impression of ?abroad.?


And as regards a fortnight?s holiday in sunny and bracing Skegness or similar, if there are any families with children who decided to take one, the likelihood is they?d go in their car anyway because that would be cheaper than four or so rail tickets, even with discounts. They might even have an electric car, which they may argue was greener than a class 156, and also takes them door to door with no additional luggage lugging. So probably not a new market that the railways should be expecting to come their way...
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2020, 05:15:50 pm »

Crises like these act as catalyst and accelerate changes that were already heading our way.

Governments have continued to invest absurd amounts of money (i.e. more than zero) in inter-urban roads, but within urban areas there has been very little major road construction for decades. It should come as no surprise that in Britain we passed Peak Car in 1994. Cars do not deliver the freedom that they so expensively promise.

All over the world road space is now being reallocated to better uses. Cities are being split into cells, with through private traffic prevented and everything you need within 15 minutes' walk. So if there is no need for a car to get to most of the things you need, why would you want to own one? And if where you live becomes much more pleasant, will you feel the need to get away from it quite so often?

There can be no doubt that in future fewer people will commute every day, and that teleconferencing is here to stay for many face-to-face meetings.

All these indicators suggest a world where people travel less often and over shorter distances. But that does not mean that there is no future for rail; it just means that it needs to do what it has always done when times change: adapt. Regional services will see a resurgence; MetroWest for example will see stopping trains from Bristol to Gloucester. There may well be fewer fast long-distance trains to and from London. Intermediate stations closed during the 1960's will reopen. Some routes closed under Marples and Castle should without doubt be reopened, though better and quicker ways need to be found to prioritise and fund these.

It is harder to see a positive future for aviation. If people travel less often over shorter distances, then many of the 17,000 or so airliners mothballed at the peak of the pandemic may never take to the skies again.
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2020, 05:57:53 pm »

I think the demise of air travel is greatly exaggerated as when lockdown eased 500,000 went abroad to "safe" countries; probably brought the virus back. Two million people returned from abroad during the early stages of the virus.

The two week staycation has gone. The six hotels, planned pre covid, being built in Torbay are, except for the 5*, are basically Premier Inns with hotel facilities such as spas and gyms aimed at the short stay customer. Two of the hotels have no car parking relying on nearby car parks and three have limited car parking.

This weekend Paignton has been busy but I expect they had come by car and from not very far.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2020, 07:16:07 pm »

Experience over the years has told me that just because one thing happens it does not automatically follow that another thing will happen. I have heard many predictions that the need for travel will diminish because we now have Skype, or we now have email, and I suspect similar things were said when the telephone was invented and even when the national postal service started. People have also predicted that nuclear power stations would make energy too cheap to meter. There are plenty of other examples.
I agree with Mr Squirrel that there is a decreasing need for car ownership when people live in large cities, and indeed my partner?s daughter is a classic example who is 34, lives in London and has never even taken driving lessons let alone bought a car;  she quite simply doesn?t see the need. But the flaw in his argument lies in the fact that not everybody does.

I live in Chippenham, a medium sized market town in Wiltshire with good rail connections to both Bristol and London and of course the intermediate stations. The local bus services are adequate but not really extensive on Mondays to Fridays and Saturday mornings; after that it is another matter. The only buses that run on Sundays go to Bath (90 minute intervals and a contract service for Wiltshire Council) and Swindon (30 min intervals). There are no town local buses, or buses to Malmesbury or to Devizes or to Frome or any of the village services to the north and west of the town on Sundays. Around here private cars are far from being a needless and expensive luxury, and North Wiltshire is not unique. There will be hundreds if not thousands of places in similar circumstances all over the country, and this will not change any time soon because there are insufficient potential bums on seats to make a commercial public transport operation worthwhile. Many large urban areas recognise this issue by providing park and ride schemes.

Mr Upminster makes convincing arguments about aviation and visitors to Paignton. UK seaside resorts have relied on day trippers and short breakers for many years and, to be honest, anyone visiting a UK seaside resort for a week or two, especially with children,  needs a number of Plan Bs to have something to do on days when sitting on a beach is not an option. And even if they do happen to live somewhere where a car is not needed so they don?t own one, they may be sorely tempted to hire one for a few days.

It all boils down the difference between idealism and real-world practicality.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2020, 09:45:18 pm »

According to Statistica the urban population of the UK is around 56 million whilst the rural population is around 11 million, and the trend is shifting toward urban. It is possible that this trend may slow or even reverse, of course, but for the foreseeable future the vast majority of people will continue to live in towns.

It may well be the case that a fair chunk of the 11 million rural folk continue to travel by car. A significant number people in towns will, for one reason or another, stick to motoring too. But the trend is clear. This isn't idealism, this is the real world. And interestingly, the trend of reducing car dependence since Peak Car is more or less mirrored by the increase in rail use.
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2020, 10:14:22 pm »

I was going to ask where you got the 1994 date for UK peak car from, but you're provided your source, so thanks. I had been wondering on what measure: total vehicle ownership? vehicle-miles? But it turns out to be modal share. Stagnant or declining modal share doesn't necessarily equal declining overall demand, of course.
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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2020, 03:48:08 pm »

My views may be summarised as,
"The need for speed" Faster is in my view better, though by no means the only consideration.
Whilst 5 day a week commuting MIGHT decline I suspect that most passengers consider how long each journey takes, rather than the time taken per week. Or put another way, 2 return trips a week does NOT for most passengers excuse a longer journey time.
Shorter journey times for local trains will help to make train more competitive with driving.
Faster long distance trains will help make trains more competitive with flying.
There is little point in spending millions to save a couple of minutes journey time, if buying a ticket takes 20 minutes.

Comfort and facilities are also important. As a personal example, when living in London I regularly choose an approx. 70 minute bus journey versus a 35 minute train journey. I always got a seat on the bus, and almost never got a seat on the new shorter trains (4 car and 6 car networkers replaced 8 car slam door units)

For longer rail journeys, comfort and facilities are more important. It is not just me whom considers new trains to be a backward step in these respects.

I agree that travel to business meetings is likely to decline permanently.

I expect an increase in domestic holiday and leisure travel. There is a move away from air travel for at least two reasons. Firstly some are minimising air travel due to environmental concerns. Others are avoiding it due to the "hassle factor" of prolonged check in and security procedures, lost luggage and in general not customer friendly.
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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.
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2020, 05:06:38 pm »

There is little point in spending millions to save a couple of minutes journey time, if buying a ticket takes 20 minutes.

Was your spirit standing beside me at Swindon station this morning?    An excellent operational team there from GWR but my goodness there is a whole basket of things - some very silly little things - that could be done to improve the customer experience. And that includes the ticketing process.  More a "Transport Scholars" topic - and a diversion from this thread too, but 'needed' to comment here.
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2020, 06:36:22 pm »

There is little point in spending millions to save a couple of minutes journey time, if buying a ticket takes 20 minutes.

Was your spirit standing beside me at Swindon station this morning?    An excellent operational team there from GWR but my goodness there is a whole basket of things - some very silly little things - that could be done to improve the customer experience. And that includes the ticketing process.  More a "Transport Scholars" topic - and a diversion from this thread too, but 'needed' to comment here.

Spirit? Fortified wine, surely? 🙂
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2020, 08:09:07 pm »

Speed as a customer parameter and not an operational one.

Examples ... from my recent travels

* Due at Swindon by 06:45 this morning (for a 7 a.m. start). Left home 05:15.
* Finished at 10:00, got home 11:45.
* Day trip to Isle of Wight - left home at 07:30, got there 11:35
* Left island on return 16:45, home at 20:30

The things that screams at me is the amount of time awaiting connections (had I not used the bus but used the train on the IOW trips, I would have left home at 06:10 rather than 07:30, and got home at 21:35 rather than 20:30.

Far better to up to a point to have services providing more journey opportunities via more trains running / stopping than saving a few minutes on their journey time?   The balance changes when you get to a high frequency service where the extra time taken with added stops is around a quarter of the inter-train gap. And there's also a case for express "very" long distance services which don't need to run frequently (unless there is a capacity requirement) as the departure / arrival times of passengers are less likely to be linked to other fixed appointments.
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2020, 08:52:35 pm »

According to Statistica

It took me sometime to realise that there was a hyperlink under the word statistics; as a general rule I read posts rather then hiver my cursor over them! But in the absence of that information I looked for my own, and I found a more detailed breakdown for 2014. I can?t find the definitions they used for the categories but it gives some additional information, albeit broad brush.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rural-population-and-migration/rural-population-201415

The detail probably won?t copy and paste well into this forum but here it is:
2014 Mid-year population estimates
Category   Population   Proportion (%)
Rural, comprising:   9,260,892   17.0
Rural town and fringe   5,003,956   9.2
of which those in a sparse setting   192,085   0.4
Rural village and hamlet   4,256,936   7.8
of which those in a sparse setting   298,045   0.5
Urban, comprising:   45,055,726   83.0
Urban major conurbation   19,415,739   35.7
Urban minor conurbation   1,948,518   3.6
Urban city and town   23,691,469   43.6
of which those in a sparse setting   90,397   0.2
England   54,316,618   100.0

By the way those percentage figures don?t quite add up to 100.The headline figure is that 17% of the population live in rural areas, or about 1 in 6, or a sizeable chunk of the population who generally wont have access to public transport, although some of course may live in a rural area that happens to be on a bus route or near a railway station eg on the Exeter to Barnstaple line. But equally there will be people living in large urban areas who live quite some way from a bus route and Im thinking specifically Soundwell and New Cheltenham in Bristol here. There will also be disabled people who, for one reason or another, might not be able to use buses or trains.

But even if you do live in a large urban area and have public transport facilities in the area, they may not be available for the whole day or o where you want to go. I live in Chippenham with a population c.30,000 which I suppose puts me in the 23.7 million living in urban city and town category. If I want to go to Bath or Swindon I can simply swan into the station and get the next train (30 min interval service) or stand at the appropriate bus stop (20 minute interval service). On those buses I can also go to Calne or Lyneham or Wootton Bassett or Corsham.

If I want to go anywhere else it need thinking about and timetables need to be consulted

But if I want to start my journey on a bus with a stop in my street I am restricted to a broadly hourly service between 0935 and 1550 M to F, 0845 to 1355 on Saturdays and nothing on Sundays

If I want to go to the main Sainsburys in Chippenham it is 2.5 miles away or about a 45 minute walk each way. To get a bus from home and back I am out for a minimum 2 hours and a change of bus each way is required. It is 8 minutes away by car. And going by car inevitably leads to making less trips because there is only so much that people can lug home in a shopping bag on the bus.

So I hope you will see that when you get down into the practicalities of the situation, the figure of 17 million living in rural areas starts to become a meaningless statistic. I hope you will also see that The End of the Car is not likely to happen in our lifetimes and probably not our childrens lifetimes either

This post, I hasten to add, is not supposed to be pro car or anti public transport, it is a detailed look at how practicality can trounce idealism in the real world for millions of people in the UK and elsewhere in the world

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