Are the users of "Intercity" TOCs primarily long distance travelers or commuters?

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A0wen

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moderator note: posts #1-#3 originally in this thread.
The two requirements are mostly dealt with by different trains. Most users of Avanti West Coast, for example, are not commuters. And they are only a majority on GWR because of Reading.



The answer regarding short DMUs is that no long-distance mainline services should be being operated using short DMUs. They are for branch lines.



I would only really think the concept workable on long-distance services which don't tend to be in that position.

I think you're mistaken about Avanti - there are quite alot of areas where they absolutely *are* providing a commuter railway, among others:

Macclesfield and Stoke to Manchester
Rugby and Coventry to Birmingham
Rugby and Milton Keynes to London
London to Milton Keynes

I suspect there may also be some commuter traffic into Glasgow which Avanti picks up.

As well as further afield commuters - I worked with somebody not that many years ago who's regular commute was Crewe (or Stoke, depending on how he felt) to MK or London.

If anything Avanti is more commuter focused than GWR - by virtue of the fact it serves the 3 largest cities in the UK.
 
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Bletchleyite

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I think you're mistaken about Avanti - there are quite alot of areas where they absolutely *are* providing a commuter railway, among others:

Macclesfield and Stoke to Manchester
Rugby and Coventry to Birmingham
Rugby and Milton Keynes to London
London to Milton Keynes

Those are all incidental commuter operations and not the primary operation; commuters quite rightly "get what they are given", with the primary TOC being another one.

I suspect there may also be some commuter traffic into Glasgow which Avanti picks up.

As well as further afield commuters - I worked with somebody not that many years ago who's regular commute was Crewe (or Stoke, depending on how he felt) to MK or London.

Not something that should be encouraged. Very long distance daily commuting is environmentally unsustainable and bad for your well-being due to e.g. inadequate sleep.

But if I was doing it, it would involve working from the train for the first and last hour of the day so my work-life balance was acceptable. Thus we're back to low density seating with power sockets and tables, also needed by families.

If anything Avanti is more commuter focused than GWR - by virtue of the fact it serves the 3 largest cities in the UK.

It is primarily an InterCity TOC. Its main flows are London to Manchester and London to Birmingham (and vice versa) by a very considerable margin.
 

A0wen

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Those are all incidental commuter operations and not the primary operation; commuters quite rightly "get what they are given", with the primary TOC being another one.



Not something that should be encouraged. Very long distance daily commuting is environmentally unsustainable and bad for your well-being due to e.g. inadequate sleep.

But if I was doing it, it would involve working from the train for the first and last hour of the day so my work-life balance was acceptable. Thus we're back to low density seating with power sockets and tables, also needed by families.



It is primarily an InterCity TOC. Its main flows are London to Manchester and London to Birmingham (and vice versa) by a very considerable margin.

Sorry but GWR (mainline) and Avanti are absolutely the same.

GWR's main flows are London - Bristol and London - Cardiff, the fact they pick up at Reading - which is a similar distance out to MK is entirely incidental. And the demands are very much the same.

There are alternative trains from MK and Reading to London but many commuters prefer to use the long distance ones for a faster journey. Those 'long distance' trains are coming from much further afield be it Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth - it's immaterial.

You're trying to flex the facts to suit your argument - which doesn't stack up.

You might have been on stronger ground if you'd used LNER as your example - because they really are a long distance operator with relatively little commuter traffic.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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"Long distance" and "Commuter" are not necessarily exclusive.
Many people commute long distances for several days a week, or weekly or other intervals, because that's what their job and personal lifestyle dictates.
I've never bought a season ticket, or been a daily commuter, but I have been a heavy and regular rail user over the years on multiple routes and journeys.

Extending electrification brought commuter times down enough for the "1-hour from the London office" to reach places like Coventry, Leicester and Grantham.
More recently Swindon is now as reachable as Brighton, and arguably with a nicer ambience.
There's a similar if lesser impact for all the main cities.
Avanti gets the combination of several business and commuter flows in a single journey (as does XC, in a rather different context, over its very long routes), plus tourist traffic to North Wales or Cumbria.
It might be more useful to divide usage into the type of ticket bought, ie Walk-up (ie mainly business/peak) or Advance (mainly leisure/off-peak).
 

24Grange

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I was going to say,prior to covid , commuting distances were going up - 2 hours each way not uncommon. Whether this is due to the scarcity of the job market, price of housing or another reason I don't know. All the train interior designs are based on commuters however. Max seating, max standing room to the detriment of anyone travelling " long distance" for fun.
 

InTheEastMids

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"Long distance" and "Commuter" are not necessarily exclusive.
Exactly, flexible working means the lines between 'business traveler' and 'commuter' are blurring as people move to 2/3 or 3/2 days in office and home. A buoyant property market towards many edges of commuter belt suggest that people are moving further from London seeking factors like larger houses/gardens, proximity to countryside, the health benefits of a smaller mortgage etc...

I think the basic problem is one of segmentation. We maybe look at 'travel by train for work purposes' and, seeing broadly 2 kinds of TOC out there, try and segment people into 'commuter' or 'business traveler'. Any decent segmentation of this large group is going to have more than 2 archetypes that will give a more nuanced picture.

A further way to look at how important commuter flows are to inter-city TOCs market might be to ask ourselves if and how much the 'travel to work' market would be damaged if there was something that somehow stopped 'commuters' traveling on 'inter-city' trains? I don't have the data for the answer, but EMR are doing a helpful experiment by substituting a 55 min 'commuter' service for a 45 min 'inter-city' service from Wellingborough. It's not been universally welcomed...

And if we were in any doubt about the wider value of inter-city trains for commuting (although obviously higher speed is just one facet of an inter-city train'), this CBRE report shows the statistical value at about £21,762 for 10 minutes journey time from London.
London Commuter Towns - The 2020 Report | CBRE Residential

Which means, that with the new timetable, EMR have devalued the 3750 home 'Wellingborough East' (Stanton Cross) development by about £82 million... o_O
 

ChiefPlanner

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For many years - there was over a 1000 daily commuters from Coventry to London - more I suspect from Didcot but less from Swindon (I/C charging) , and a good number of other examples.
 

Dr Day

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Not a perfect source of data but for example taking spring and autumn 2019 combined, and selecting 'long distance operators' in the sector drop-down gives 16% of journeys classified as commuting. [apologies if not used correct protocol for links]1621358297162.png

 

6Gman

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Not a perfect source of data but for example taking spring and autumn 2019 combined, and selecting 'long distance operators' in the sector drop-down gives 16% of journeys classified as commuting. [apologies if not used correct protocol for links]View attachment 96527

That's an interesting and useful bit of data. Notable that VFR (Visiting friends & relatives) tops the list, and leisure far outweighs both business and commuting. Something for rolling stock designers to ponder?
 

24Grange

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Something where the "reality" - as borne out by the figures, doesn't equate to the "feel" in a crowed peak carriage/coach/car. maybe design decisions are made more on the "feel" than the reality? and DfT not wanting to pay for comfy seats for "typists"!!!!
 

Failed Unit

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If you look at LNER the route makes a big difference.

the Leeds route has more commuting then the Edinburgh. But lots of little flows. Doncaster - york / Leeds etc.
 

Mikey C

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Something where the "reality" - as borne out by the figures, doesn't equate to the "feel" in a crowed peak carriage/coach/car. maybe design decisions are made more on the "feel" than the reality? and DfT not wanting to pay for comfy seats for "typists"!!!!
Work travellers aren't just commuters though. There will be people travelling to service/win clients etc, or to meet associates/business partners/suppliers

It will be interesting if this business reduces as a result of Zoom meetings. I imagine someone in Milton Keynes would still physically travel to London or Birmingham to meet a business partner whereas if the journey was Newcastle or Plymouth to London, then virtual meetings would still be a tempting option
 

Merseysider

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This could be an interesting discussion to add a poll to - to get an idea of how forum users use intercity TOCs.

There does seem to be a mix on Avanti, heavily in favour of long distance, in my experience.
 

w1bbl3

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Work travellers aren't just commuters though. There will be people travelling to service/win clients etc, or to meet associates/business partners/suppliers

It will be interesting if this business reduces as a result of Zoom meetings. I imagine someone in Milton Keynes would still physically travel to London or Birmingham to meet a business partner whereas if the journey was Newcastle or Plymouth to London, then virtual meetings would still be a tempting option
I'd say the volume of these flows returning in part depends on value of business done for the companies in question asking staff to make such journeys. Certainly from a work perspective as very regular business meeting commuter prior to march '20 I haven't attended a single physical client meeting since. We've not lost (or not secured) any contracts off the back of this either so questions are being asked internally if offering physical attendance in anything other than very limited and critical situations is right thing for the future. I'd suspect the cost savings and productivity improvements will for us in construction see am effective business meeting travel ban.

The ability to get productive work done before and after a virtual meeting is one of the more surprising and unexpected benefits and being able to call meetings at short notice to work through problems/questions.

I just can't see the same level of business or commuting travel returning now this genie is out of the bottle.
 

wellhouse

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I haven't attended a single physical client meeting since. We've not lost (or not secured) any contracts off the back of this either so questions are being asked internally if offering physical attendance in anything other than very limited and critical situations is right thing for the future. I'd suspect the cost savings and productivity improvements will for us in construction see am effective business meeting travel ban.

While it's clear that most organisations are reviewing travel policies, it remains to be seen what the outcomes will be as the option of safe physical meetings resumes. There is no time and travel cost for the client when a potential supplier visits them for negotiations, so should they prefer direct personal contact, the suppliers prepared to make the journey will have an advantage over those who restrict all meetings to Zoom.

Online communication can certainly be effective where there are long standing relationships, but physical meetings may yet prove to be more effective to establish them.
 

bramling

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Sorry but GWR (mainline) and Avanti are absolutely the same.

GWR's main flows are London - Bristol and London - Cardiff, the fact they pick up at Reading - which is a similar distance out to MK is entirely incidental. And the demands are very much the same.

There are alternative trains from MK and Reading to London but many commuters prefer to use the long distance ones for a faster journey. Those 'long distance' trains are coming from much further afield be it Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth - it's immaterial.

You're trying to flex the facts to suit your argument - which doesn't stack up.

You might have been on stronger ground if you'd used LNER as your example - because they really are a long distance operator with relatively little commuter traffic.

Even LNER has some commuter flows. Doncaster or Wakefield into Leeds, Peterborough, Grantham and Newark into London, various flows centring on Newcastle and Edinburgh (eg Durham to Newcastle or Berwick to Edinburgh) to think of a few. Agreed they’re not quite as heavy as the other two.
 

A0wen

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Even LNER has some commuter flows. Doncaster or Wakefield into Leeds, Peterborough, Grantham and Newark into London, various flows centring on Newcastle and Edinburgh (eg Durham to Newcastle or Berwick to Edinburgh) to think of a few. Agreed they’re not quite as heavy as the other two.

It's nothing like the WCML though - Peterboro is akin to MK where they aren't the main provider but are popular for journey time. Grantham / Newark more like Rugby - London where there are far fewer commuters that far out, except for Rugby, it's also got Coventry & Birmingham which are far more popular. Grantham and Newark are more likely to have people commuting to Lincoln or Nottingham than London - LNER do one infrequently and not the other.

Leeds isn't as popular as Manchester or Birmingham.
 

xotGD

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Even LNER has some commuter flows. Doncaster or Wakefield into Leeds, Peterborough, Grantham and Newark into London, various flows centring on Newcastle and Edinburgh (eg Durham to Newcastle or Berwick to Edinburgh) to think of a few. Agreed they’re not quite as heavy as the other two.
LNER also picks up a morning flow from Airedale into Leeds. But not back again.

Also Harrogate to Leeds.
 

WelshBluebird

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"It depends" is the full answer really.
Thinking locally to me, GWR's intercity service is absolutely used as a commuting service between say Bristol and Bath. Even though there are other local services too, the intercity services provide most of the seats between the stations especially in rush hour.
 

tbtc

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Yet another thread based on this binary notion that a train/ service must be one thing (and therefore cannot be another thing)

Most services are different things to different people. To some, the Hope Valley stopper out of Sheffield might be the "last resort" after missing the faster TPE service to Manchester... to some it might be the fastest way of getting back to their rural village... to some it might be a trade off, getting a cheap Northern ticket rather than paying full whack on the faster TPE/ EMR services. The service in the morning rush hour might have a lot of commuters on it but also someone heading home from a night shift (or a gig/ party).

Evert TOC carries some commuters, every TOC carries some leisure passengers, I'm not sure why people are even trying to fit things into some black/white view, other than either some strange fascination with the German system or a childhood view of the world where lines were either "InterCity" or "not InterCity" (and the weird and wonderful contradictions therein - e.g. Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds - York - Durham - Newcastle wasn't InterCity but London - Gatwick Airport was InterCity... trying to analyse twenty first century travel based on a 1980s BR map seems a little futile...)

Most people aren't going to care about this kind of thing - you use the service that's best for you - if you are at Wakefield heading to your job in Leeds then of course you're going to prefer the longer faster LNER service to the Northern 150 - same with Bath to Bristol or Wolverhampton to Birmingham or Chesterfield to Sheffield or Durham to Newcastle - you're not going to worry about what "InterCity" means

Plenty of services tick different boxes - e.g. the Nottingham - Leeds trains are the stopper until they get to Sheffield (Ilkeston, Dronfield etc) but then become the "fast" train through Barnsley - Liverpool to Newcastle is similarly "fast" at one end and "slow" at the other (Thirsk, Chester-le-Street etc) - trains from London to Penzance/ Inverness etc effectively take the path of a "local" service at the further extremes of their route - if you want to fixate on whether that makes them "InterCity" (or whether they should change their branding/ head codes/ seats part way through the journey) then fair enough, we each need a hobby!

The only difference is that generally people don't commute from one city to another - some do - I used to do so myself each day - but it's a minority of people - and significantly skewed by London (there's a lot less commuting between cities that aren't London). Commuter distances are generally a lot longer around London too - people have to put up with some soulless housing estate in Didcot/ Milton Keynes/ Crawley if you want a garden and an additional bedroom, which means putting up with the cost/time of commuting by train. And, as time goes by, and London house prices rise disproportionately compared to the rest of the UK, the distances that people put up with has grown (e.g. you might have relocated from London to Stevenage ten years ago but now you'll have to move all the way to Peterborough as the waves of "settlers" affect demand).

We need to stop trying to pigeonhole TOCs, services, trains - just as you could have found a 170 doing Hull - London at the same time as a similar Turbostar was doing a Walsall - Birmingham service, the same service can do a number of different things for different people. But we seem stuck having the same binary debates!
 

gallafent

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Yet another thread based on this binary notion that a train/ service must be one thing (and therefore cannot be another thing)
Absolutely this. I've been thinking since the thread started that the two operators with which I'm most familiar, GWR and Avanti (and their predecessors) are simply both, not “primarily” one or the other. It's just one of these ill-posed questions which crop up quite frequently.
 

Bletchleyite

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Absolutely this. I've been thinking since the thread started that the two operators with which I'm most familiar, GWR and Avanti (and their predecessors) are simply both, not “primarily” one or the other. It's just one of these ill-posed questions which crop up quite frequently.

Is it ill-posed, though? Almost every other country segregates, because the needs of the two user groups are highly disparate.

British exceptionalism?
 

zwk500

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Is it ill-posed, though? Almost every other country segregates, because the needs of the two user groups are highly disparate.

British exceptionalism?
British Geography does not naturally lend itself to service segregation in the way our continental friends are able to. Land is too precious for housing to be used for under-utilised rail links. Our population is too dense to allow a genuine network of HSR services. The overwhelming majority of the UK population fit into a box 450 miles North-South and 270 miles East-West (South coast to central Belt, Plymouth/Swansea to East Anglia Coast).

There's plenty the UK could do better by learning from it's neighbours, but not everything that works over there will work over here.
 

Huntergreed

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I can say that many of the upper WCML services (Carlisle - Glasgow/Edinburgh (particularly Motherwell stoppers!) could have good commuter loadings.

I’ve seen the 16:40 Avanti Glasgow - Euston that stops at Motherwell pretty packed (and now they are introducing more Motherwell stops, it seems likely that this pattern will only continue).
 

gallafent

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Is it ill-posed, though?
If we're talking about what we have, I think it definitely is … the thread title asks about current users of UK “InterCity” TOCs (without actually defining what those are, as well … any TOC that provides a service which calls at at least 2 cities, I guess would be the most logical interpretation?) — and I think the answer is that both “classes” of user use them in general, not primarily one or the other.

Almost every other country segregates, because the needs of the two user groups are highly disparate.
… whereas if we're talking about what we “should” have, that's definitely a much more open question! :)


Our population is too dense to allow a genuine network of HSR services. The overwhelming majority of the UK population fit into a box 450 miles North-South and 270 miles East-West (South coast to central Belt, Plymouth/Swansea to East Anglia Coast).

I was about to point out Japan, but the uneven distribution in the UK does change the story a bit since England's density overall is higher than Japan's. Populations in people per square kilometre:

Japan: 333 (wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_population_density )
UK: 280 (wikipedia)
England: 432 (statista https://www.statista.com/statistics/281322/population-density-in-the-united-kingdom-uk-by-country/ )

It would be interesting to overlay the Japanese HSR lines on the map at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/330f91b22b6644af957aceed4ffad339 (an article, including maps, about Japan's population density by prefecture, which demonstrates that Japan's population is also very unevenly distributed across the country) to see where they run … one would assume that the generally run between areas of very high density, perhaps through lower density areas. Looking at the colours in general, though, it feels as if they have to run through high density areas to an extent too.

I remember reading somewhere that the Japanese Shinkansen system is an outlier in HSR terms too, in that its stations are closer together in general than those on systems in other countries.

China is another interesting example. As well as the city regions of Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, China has six “real provinces” (Jiangsu, Shandong, Guangdong, Henan, Zhejiang, and Anhui) all of which have a higher population density than England, … and at least some of which (probably all, by now, I haven't checked) have high speed rail operating as part of China's network. (Again from statista at https://www.statista.com/statistics/1183370/china-population-density-by-region-province/ ). In what way are those areas of high population density clearly not too dense to allow a network of HSR services (they have one), but England's is? Surely high population density is exactly what is required in order to provide sufficient custom to use the capacity provided?
 
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zwk500

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If we're talking about what we have, I think it definitely is … the thread title asks about current users of UK “InterCity” TOCs (without actually defining what those are, as well … any TOC that provides a service which calls at at least 2 cities, I guess would be the most logical interpretation?) — and I think the answer is that both “classes” of user use them in general, not primarily one or the other.
Does this mean the Bradford-Leeds all shacks via Shipley is an Intercity service? To my mind intercity is Higher-speed limited stop between major population centres, regardless of city status.
I was about to point out Japan, but the uneven distribution in the UK does change the story a bit since England's density overall is higher than Japan's. Populations in people per square kilometre:

Japan: 333 (wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_population_density )
UK: 280 (wikipedia)
England: 432 (statista https://www.statista.com/statistics/281322/population-density-in-the-united-kingdom-uk-by-country/ )

It would be interesting to overlay the Japanese HSR lines on the map at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/330f91b22b6644af957aceed4ffad339 (an article, including maps, about Japan's population density by prefecture, which demonstrates that Japan's population is also very unevenly distributed across the country) to see where they run … one would assume that the generally run between areas of very high density, perhaps through lower density areas. Looking at the colours in general, though, it feels as if they have to run through high density areas to an extent too.

I remember reading somewhere that the Japanese Shinkansen system is an outlier in HSR terms too, in that its stations are closer together in general than those on systems in other countries.
Relevant to this is that Honshu (to avoid skewing the figures to much) is 810 miles from North to South and about 100 miles in width for most of it's length. However Japan's population also tends to be very concentrated in the cities, on either cost, because of the extremely mountainous geography. However in England our cities are generally smaller but more distributed, with lots of sizeable commuter towns in between them.
China is another interesting example. As well as the city regions of Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, China has six “real provinces” (Jiangsu, Shandong, Guangdong, Henan, Zhejiang, and Anhui) all of which have a higher population density than England, … and at least some of which (probably all, by now, I haven't checked) have high speed rail operating as part of China's network. (Again from statista at https://www.statista.com/statistics/1183370/china-population-density-by-region-province/ ). In what way are those areas of high population density clearly not too dense to allow a network of HSR services (they have one), but England's is? Surely high population density is exactly what is required in order to provide sufficient custom to use the capacity provided?
China's HSR network is built for political (control) reasons as much as economic ones so comparison of business case would not be representative.

The general figure I've seen is that HSR stations need to be c.100 miles apart for optimum benefit. Any further apart and flying becomes quicker even after airport transfer, and lower than that and you don't spend long enough at high speed. I don't know how accurate this is.
 

Mikey C

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I'd say the volume of these flows returning in part depends on value of business done for the companies in question asking staff to make such journeys. Certainly from a work perspective as very regular business meeting commuter prior to march '20 I haven't attended a single physical client meeting since. We've not lost (or not secured) any contracts off the back of this either so questions are being asked internally if offering physical attendance in anything other than very limited and critical situations is right thing for the future. I'd suspect the cost savings and productivity improvements will for us in construction see am effective business meeting travel ban.

The ability to get productive work done before and after a virtual meeting is one of the more surprising and unexpected benefits and being able to call meetings at short notice to work through problems/questions.

I just can't see the same level of business or commuting travel returning now this genie is out of the bottle.
But then we've been in lockdown/semi lockdown where I assume none of your rivals have been travelling to have face to face meetings either

That might start to change though. If my company is mainly back in the office, and asks 3 companies to tender for work, with 2 travelling to see me while the other one does it on Zoom, will the Zoom one be at a disadvantage?
 

BayPaul

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Is it ill-posed, though? Almost every other country segregates, because the needs of the two user groups are highly disparate.

British exceptionalism?
Is it just possible that it is better here than in other countries?

The big advantage of combining the various flows is that frequency increases. Take Cornwall, for example. There are now 2tph along the length of the county, making rail a much more viable option for travel between the various towns in Cornwall. If we had a continental-style system where certain trains were designated as Intercity, and so required reservations / were pick up or set down only or similar, then the resulting hourly(ish) frequency wouldn't be nearly as useful.
For Reading etc, is it really that bad that long distance travellers have to put up with commuters standing in their carriages for the first/last half hour (even for down departures, the fact that most long distance pax either get to the station before their train is on the board, or have a seat reservation means that they are much more likely to get a seat than a commuter who just gets on the next train seconds before the doors close). The advantage is that commuting to Reading by rail is far quicker and more convenient than if all 80x departures were pick up/set down only, and there is capacity on the line for things like Bristol going to every 15 minutes.

I would argue that all of this far outweighs the slight loss in ambience of not having dedicated Intercity stock.
 

Taunton

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For Reading etc, is it really that bad that long distance travellers have to put up with commuters standing in their carriages for the first/last half hour (even for down departures, the fact that most long distance pax either get to the station before their train is on the board, or have a seat reservation means that they are much more likely to get a seat than a commuter who just gets on the next train seconds before the doors close).
This firstly doesn't help if the train is only put on the board 5-10 minutes before departure, secondly the daily commuters are more fleet-of-foot when it does go up, and lastly even if you do have a reservation if an 80-year-old lady from Reading boards just before departure you end up standing anyway.
 

Bletchleyite

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But then we've been in lockdown/semi lockdown where I assume none of your rivals have been travelling to have face to face meetings either

That might start to change though. If my company is mainly back in the office, and asks 3 companies to tender for work, with 2 travelling to see me while the other one does it on Zoom, will the Zoom one be at a disadvantage?

Maybe, maybe not. The Zoom one will likely be cheaper.
 
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