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Old 5th January 2017, 10:12   #31
Bletchleyite
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Originally Posted by Haywain View Post
I wonder how you think this would be done? Perhaps a smartcard system that required full payment in advance and touching in and out at the start/end of the journey and on the train during the journey? Sounds a touch complex to me, to achieve much of what our fares system already does.
It would be an awful lot easier to do that using "more flexible Advances". Train-specific, but fully changeable for no fee, just the fare difference.

Indeed, the XC approach of "late Advances" is heading that way. Then you'd just have an Anytime and these tickets. Logically, regulated fares would instead be a regulated fare *basket* instead - based on the average fare per head on the route, say.
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Old 5th January 2017, 10:32   #32
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So, we have no actual figures to work with, so my questions still don't have proper answers.
Maybe that's because 'proper' answers to your questions would take considerable time and resources to provide.

It seems clear to me that any system, even one that's primarily based on mileage, would have to have lots of cases where individual fares are reviewed and adjusted manually to make sure they don't cause undue overcrowding, or anomalies where there are alternative routes. I don't think it's reasonable to expect people here to go through that analysis to come up with specific fares - which as I understand it is basically what your questions are asking.

We're individuals discussing, in principle, what a decent fares system might look like and on what principles it might be based. We're not train companies equipped with all the staff and detailed information (for example on line mileages) to work out the details of individual cases.

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We will have mileage based pricing but at various different rates, we will have supplements for fast trains, and journeys like Poppleton to Sheffield have to be bought with a routeing of "Via: Harrogate/Leeds/Doncaster" or "Via: York/Pontefract/ NOT Leeds/Doncaster" or "Via: Leeds/Wakefield NOT Harrogate/Doncaster" and so on and so forth?
I'm not sure that's entirely fair to put it like that. Those suggestions have been made by various different people who have different opinions, and I don't think any one single person here has said they support all of those ideas.

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And I thought the current system was complicated
What you've described above may well be complicated to the TOC to work out the possible fares in the first place, but that's not an issue. The issue is how complex is it to the passenger to work out which ticket is the best/cheapest one for him to buy. In that regard, I'm not convinced what is being proposed is more complex than what exists at present - where you don't even know at the ticket machine whether you might be able to get a better deal by split ticketing. (Although I would say that I think having very fine-grained choices of which route your ticket is valid on is too complex, I personally probably wouldn't support that).

Besides, I don't think it's just complexity. The question of fairness is also important. No system of fares is going to be perfect - because of the need to balance competing requirements (demand management, ease of enforcement, complexity, etc.). But one thing that seems to have been completely lost from the current system is fairness. The example that sparked this thread was that on some Virgin trains from London, the walk-on fare actually gets lower if you stay on the train for longer. That may well have good rationale in terms of yield management etc., but it runs completely against the human instinct of fairness. It makes the people who are paying more to travel the shorter distance feel (arguably, justifiably) ripped off, and leads to all sorts of attempts to work around the system, and can only damage confidence in the railways. Split-ticketing is another example: The fact that it is possible runs against basic notions of fairness - in some ways that's a more significant problem than the fact that split-ticketing can be so complex to do.

That's all important. And it's something that a system based (roughly) on mileage, would be likely to fix (although obviously, care would be needed in working out the details).

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Old 5th January 2017, 10:47   #33
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Yeah, I agree that Yorkie's questions are disingenuous: we don't have access to profit margins, loading figures, investment plans etc. Giving specific figures would be nonsensical.

That said - it strikes me DynamicSpirit that by the time you've added your caveats, supplements for different train types etc, what you are describing is essentially a variation on our current system rather than anything particularly new! Furthermore the assertion - that something which is more instinctive is therefore fairer - is just an assertion. Is it fairer for people travelling to/from Preston to be more overcrowded trains in order to keep pricing in line with a cost that would keep journeys to Lancaster (or that matter Carlisle and Glasgow) attractive? I'm not sure it necessarily is.

I do think we need to look at pricing. It frustrates me that (for example), living in Durham I can't really justify a spontaneous day's train travel to York (£37.80 return), yet that when I used to live in Newcastle, I could do a similar day-trip to Carlisle (£16.20 return), simply because of the different roles of the ECML and Tyne Valley line in our national rail network. It doesn't feel right, as you point out.

Fundamentally, I think that issues in the fare structure is probably a symptom of lack of what Neil Williams described nicely above as our 'web' of a network, along with issues in capacity rather than a problem which can be resolved in itself. If we created greater capacity - lines, trains and stations - then prices would fall to more usable levels across the board.
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Smartcards would solve some but not all of the problems. Most obviously, smartcards would allow for easier introduction of flexible season tickets or carnet-style travel, and for cheaper local journeys along mainlines or within regions because they can track how you subsequently travel: by ending split ticketing, they could allow for cheaper local journeys. However, they wouldn't fix the 'cheaper to travel to Lancaster than to Preston' problem, and I think that can only be achieved through greater capacity.
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Old 5th January 2017, 11:16   #34
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Yeah, I agree that Yorkie's questions are disingenuous: we don't have access to profit margins, loading figures, investment plans etc. Giving specific figures would be nonsensical.

That said - it strikes me DynamicSpirit that by the time you've added your caveats, supplements for different train types etc, what you are describing is essentially a variation on our current system rather than anything particularly new!
It think there is some truth in that - the system I would have might well end up not too different from the current system in some ways. However, a key difference is that I would make sure that fares are (to some approximation) comparable for comparable distances, that they don't go down as distance goes up, and that the cheapest ticket for a journey is almost always a through ticket, not a hard-to-find split one.

One other thing I would do - which hasn't been discussed so far on this thread - and which I think is more revolutionary is: I'd drop the price of all single tickets to be something like 55% of the price of a return. I think the current system where a single for most journeys costs basically the same as a return is ludicrous, is massively unfair to people who only need to travel one way, and is a needless disincentive to travel by train for people whose journeys are anything other than simple out-and-back trips.

I would suspect that the numbers of people who don't want to make simple return journeys is relatively small (and some of those are actually making circular trips of the form A-B-C-A rather than one-way trips), so dropping the prices of singles in this way wouldn't significantly reduce revenue, but it would make pricing a lot fairer, and it would make using the railways much more attractive to people who need to make more complex journeys.

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Old 5th January 2017, 11:53   #35
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It think there is some truth in that - the system I would have might well end up not too different from the current system in some ways. However, a key difference is that I would make sure that fares are (to some approximation) comparable for comparable distances, that they don't go down as distance goes up, and that the cheapest ticket for a journey is almost always a through ticket, not a hard-to-find split one.

One other thing I would do - which hasn't been discussed so far on this thread - and which I think is more revolutionary is: I'd drop the price of all single tickets to be something like 55% of the price of a return. I think the current system where a single for most journeys costs basically the same as a return is ludicrous, is massively unfair to people who only need to travel one way, and is a needless disincentive to travel by train for people whose journeys are anything other than simple out-and-back trips.

I would suspect that the numbers of people who don't want to make simple return journeys is relatively small (and some of those are actually making circular trips of the form A-B-C-A rather than one-way trips), so dropping the prices of singles in this way wouldn't significantly reduce revenue, but it would make pricing a lot fairer, and it would make using the railways much more attractive to people who need to make more complex journeys.
I agree with the above. Well put.
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Old 5th January 2017, 12:03   #36
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Yorkie's questions are relevant because they highlight that the railway doesn't operate in isolation but as part of the wider transport market, so a pure mileage system is too much of a blunt instrument.

In a broad sense, trains 'compete' against taxis, buses, light rail and cycling for short journeys, and car travel, coaches and domestic flights for longer journeys.

This competition isn't just in financial terms but also in terms of time and comfort - for example business travellers can get more work done on a 2 hour train journey than a 2 hour car journey, even if the 'price label' of the train journey is more expensive. Commuter cyclists have often moved over from crowded public transport journeys.
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Old 5th January 2017, 12:06   #37
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Yeah, I agree that Yorkie's questions are disingenuous: we don't have access to profit margins, loading figures, investment plans etc. Giving specific figures would be nonsensical.
I don't agree. If you advocate a mileage based fares system, then what yorkie is asking for is examples. So, let's say £1 per (one way) mile for return tickets shall we? That makes St Albans to St Pancras £20, Kings Cross to Durham £254, Euston to Glasgow £401 and Penzance to Aberdeen £720 (or thereabouts). Do these seem reasonable? Do they all look reasonable if the amount per mile is reduced? It seems that everybody wants to say what would be fairer, but nobody is prepared to actually give any sort of figures. That is without taking into account the effect on the overall train company revenue or on capacity or loadings - that is what yorkie is asking for.
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Old 5th January 2017, 12:36   #38
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I'm not really as well versed in the fare system as most people in this thread, but I wanted to add my 2 pence to the discussion.

Regarding mileage based fares, they cannot be simple multiplication of the mile rate. A discount needs to be applied that rises proportionally with the mileage and be weighted accordingly. Perhaps the largest discount could be calculated from the current fare for the longest journey.

To be honest though, I think the best solution is to take advantage of the large analytical powers we have in computing these days, or "big data" if you wish. From analysis of various factors it'd be possible to build a complex mathematical model for fares and what factors effect them. Calculated fares can then be compared to the current fares and outliers adjusted to be in line with other dates.
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Old 5th January 2017, 13:53   #39
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I'd drop the price of all single tickets to be something like 55% of the price of a return
I'd drop them to 50%. It's worked for the low cost airlines. It would remove one heck of a lot of complexity on things like routeing and excesses, particularly as you could replace excesses with effectively trading in the ticket you have against the one you want.
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Old 5th January 2017, 15:00   #40
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I'd drop them to 50%. It's worked for the low cost airlines. It would remove one heck of a lot of complexity on things like routeing and excesses, particularly as you could replace excesses with effectively trading in the ticket you have against the one you want.
It hasn't worked for low cost airlines because they have never had return fares to halve. They use a fully dynamic pricing model, the like of which could perhaps work on long distance trains (a development of the Advance ticket model) but not on local services. However, the principal reason it works for low cost airlines is that they operate purely point-to-point so remove options to stop or start short or split tickets or have any concern about what it might cost to go one stop more or less.

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Old 5th January 2017, 15:13   #41
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It sounds like demand based fare zoning and abolishing returns that are the same price as singles are ideas here.

Is it so much to have split tickets aggregated into an advance ticket for the sake of convenience? Granted, the passenger won't be able to make any of the breaks where the ticket allows but many split ticket users probably don't anyway. There are many advance fares that cover multiple operators anyway, so any split journey that has an advance fare in could be an advance fare all the way. Personally if I was travelling from Birmingham to Glasgow and there was a peak portion between Birmingham and Wolverhampton and an advance segment between Wolverhampton and Stafford, I'm most likely going to be using the times train split gave me rather than worry about being able to break my journey at Wolverhampton.

Split ticket journeys that are cheaper from covering peak and off peak segments could be packaged into one ticket, though the complication however is whether it should be a cheaper peak ticket that allows breaks but mandates that the passenger cannot get an earlier train, or is simply an advance ticket, is another matter though.
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Old 5th January 2017, 16:26   #42
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It seems that everybody wants to say what would be fairer, but nobody is prepared to actually give any sort of figures. That is without taking into account the effect on the overall train company revenue or on capacity or loadings - that is what yorkie is asking for.
But that's unknowable. How much profit did each TOC make last year? What are their investment plans for the next decade? Which TOCs are planning to rebid for future franchises? What are the loadings of peak, off-peak trains? How does ORCATS allocate fares among TOCs?

This an enthusiasts forum. We can only talk in general terms about the principles that might shape the fares system. The idea that we can actually propose new systems, informed by figures, is laughable.

The underlying point - that crude mileage-based systems are flawed - is a good one. The questions help reveal that, yes. But the follow-up which bemoans that we 'still don't have any figures' is nonsense.
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Old 5th January 2017, 17:43   #43
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Is it so much to have split tickets aggregated into an advance ticket for the sake of convenience?
Now that could well lead to a usable idea. For Advance tickets, a given journey is already split into a set of "legs" (I forget the correct term), each of which has a quota associated to it. The overall fare is built up of these quotas *at the highest one that is available* (thus causing anomalies). Also there are some journeys for which Advance fares are not available.

So, how could we make this more practical?

We could do the following:-

- Each TOC divides all their services up into chunks, as presently is AIUI done for Advances. Each chunk has a set of quotas and a fare. For a given chunk, there may or may not be Advance fares, or just Anytime/Off Peak walk-ups, or whatever. A TOC wishing to discount a set of chunks could also set a fare for multiple chunks provided it was not in excess of the fare for the chunks it makes up (thus avoiding anomalies).

- When a passenger requests a specific journey, via whatever route they so desire, doublebacks etc included, with breaks of journey timed in if they wish, the fare is summed from the current quota of each relevant bit and issued as an Advance ticket valid on the selected services only. Where a given chunk has no Advance fare, the cheapest valid walk-up fare is used.

- Changes would be free of charge, but would require payment up to the fare of the selected changed service(s). A "rescue fee" of maybe the £10 admin fee could apply to the situation where a train was missed and the passenger wishes to reinstate the ticket and change it to a later service, provided they do so on the booked day of travel (say), or perhaps within, say, 12 hours of the time of departure of each booked train.

If this was combined with true e-ticketing, so you could easily do changes online, on mobile etc, as well as at ticket offices and TVMs, this could work pretty well.

That would leave the question of how to work walk-ups, assuming we consider those to remain needed. They could work roughly as they do now, but as singles, for "expert users" to use as they wish. But the advantage of the above would be that provided the passenger used an Advance, there would be no anomalies at all - they would *always* get the cheapest ticket for their journey - and with the change fee removed and a relatively small "missed the train" fee it would also remove many of the disadvantages of Advances entirely.
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Old 5th January 2017, 18:02   #44
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Now that could well lead to a usable idea. For Advance tickets, a given journey is already split into a set of "legs" (I forget the correct term), each of which has a quota associated to it. The overall fare is built up of these quotas *at the highest one that is available* (thus causing anomalies). Also there are some journeys for which Advance fares are not available.

So, how could we make this more practical?

We could do the following:-

- Each TOC divides all their services up into chunks, as presently is AIUI done for Advances. Each chunk has a set of quotas and a fare. For a given chunk, there may or may not be Advance fares, or just Anytime/Off Peak walk-ups, or whatever. A TOC wishing to discount a set of chunks could also set a fare for multiple chunks provided it was not in excess of the fare for the chunks it makes up (thus avoiding anomalies).

- When a passenger requests a specific journey, via whatever route they so desire, doublebacks etc included, with breaks of journey timed in if they wish, the fare is summed from the current quota of each relevant bit and issued as an Advance ticket valid on the selected services only. Where a given chunk has no Advance fare, the cheapest valid walk-up fare is used.

- Changes would be free of charge, but would require payment up to the fare of the selected changed service(s). A "rescue fee" of maybe the £10 admin fee could apply to the situation where a train was missed and the passenger wishes to reinstate the ticket and change it to a later service, provided they do so on the booked day of travel (say), or perhaps within, say, 12 hours of the time of departure of each booked train.

If this was combined with true e-ticketing, so you could easily do changes online, on mobile etc, as well as at ticket offices and TVMs, this could work pretty well.

That would leave the question of how to work walk-ups, assuming we consider those to remain needed. They could work roughly as they do now, but as singles, for "expert users" to use as they wish. But the advantage of the above would be that provided the passenger used an Advance, there would be no anomalies at all - they would *always* get the cheapest ticket for their journey - and with the change fee removed and a relatively small "missed the train" fee it would also remove many of the disadvantages of Advances entirely.
Simpler? Fairer? Sounds like making it more complicated to me.
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Old 5th January 2017, 18:14   #45
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Simpler? Fairer? Sounds like making it more complicated to me.
How? The passenger would be shielded from any complication, and would simply book their ticket online, at a TVM or a ticket office for a specified set of services, safe in the knowledge that they got the best value. And if they need to, can change it within reasonable parameters.

Complexity *in the background* is fine provided it doesn't reflect on the passenger (i.e. a need to split tickets to save money).
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