[ATOC] Train companies suggest 'rail peak pricing'

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yorkie

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From Times Online

Rail commuters face congestion charging
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

PASSENGERS on the busiest trains will be subject to congestion charging under plans by rail companies to prevent overcrowding from reaching dangerous levels.
The Association of Train Operating Companies unveils plans today for “rail peak pricing”, which will result in passengers on the most popular services paying a premium, The Times can reveal.

Commuters in the South East would be worst hit, with many forced to pay hundreds of pounds extra for their season tickets if they want to continue catching their existing morning and evening services. Electronic smart cards would allow train companies to charge different prices for each train, rather than the current system of charging one rate for the entire peak and a single discounted rate outside the peak.

Peak pricing would come on top of the general above inflation increase in fares that the Government plans to impose to reduce the £6.5 billion annual subsidy for the railways.

The association said that the pricing system would be needed to cope with the introduction of road tolls, which could overwhelm trains by encouraging thousands of car drivers to switch to rail. “Any rail service which is a practicable alternative for people using the car on a high-charge road journey will need its own peak pricing system,” it said. “In the extreme, prices in the peak may need to be train specific.”

Nationwide road tolls are a decade away but the association believes that appropriate pricing incentives are needed immediately because overcrowding is already severe on many routes.

It admitted that the system would be complex for passengers because commuters would have to study the different rates for each service.

The Rail Passengers Council condemned the plan, saying that many passengers had no choice but to catch certain trains. “We are opposed to pri-cing people off trains,” a spokeswoman said. “The way to attract passengers to less-crowded trains is to offer better off-peak discounts rather then target a captive audience.

“We also need to see major investment in new capacity, including removing bottlenecks and building new lines.”

The association agreed that new capacity was needed and said that it could be paid for with the revenue from peak pricing, but simply building more track and adding carria-ges would be insufficient to cope with increase in demand. Passenger numbers have risen by 40 per cent in the past nine years to 1.05 billion last year, the greatest since 1959.

The network is also far more intensively used now than in 1959, when there were almost twice as many miles of track. The greatest growth has been on London commuter lines, up 53 per cent up since 1996.

The association, in its ten-year strategy for the railways published today, also reveals that London rail commuters are travelling on average three miles farther to work because they have moved out in search of cheap housing. It predicts that demand will grow by at least another 28 per cent over the next ten years. It admits that this could be a gross underestimate because it assumes that demand will decline from the present rate of 4 per cent per year to 2.5 per cent.

Transport for London has forecast that the population of London will grow by 10 per cent by 2016, from 7.4 million to 8.1 million. If the existing long-term rail travel growth rate of 3.5 per cent a year continued over the next decade, it would increase by 41 per cent.

Some companies are already experimenting with different rates for travelling in the morning peak. One, the company that operates the Great Anglia franchise, offers passengers travelling into London Liverpool Street a 15 per cent “early bird” discount on their season ticket if they avoid arriving between 7.15am and 9.15am.

PREMIUM ROUTES

Likely candidates for peak pricing:

Liverpool Street to Chelmsford
St Albans to King’s Cross
Elephant and Castle to Blackfriars
East Croydon and Tulse Hill to Blackfriars/London Bridge
Twyford and Maidenhead to Paddington
Sevenoaks to Charing Cross/Cannon Street

My thoughts:

I fail to see how this can possibly work.

Will the whole train be counted as peak for it's entire journey? What if someone goes only one stop? How will the supplements be calculated?

How will it be made clear to passengers (on displays? announcements? timetables?) that the train requires a supplement?

What about Standard Open tickets? You cannot say to a passenger with a Standard Open that they cannot take a certain train - as that makes a mockery of the term 'Open'! Would the Standard Open be abolished for these routes?

And the train immediately following that has no supplement could end up being crowded (try getting the first off GNER off peak train into King's Cross!), unless the supplement gradually reduces with time after the peak, in which case the fares structure would be even more complicated.

There will be even more anomalies created, and those 'in the know' or who have time to experiment with thetrainline.com or get a fares manual will find cheaper combinations to make it cheaper. There will almost certainly be possibilities of switching to trains on adjacent lines, e.g. going to Victoria and then taking the tube.

Now if only the TOCs hadn't spent so much money on expensive unreliable trains to replace reliable cheap to run trains and waste £billions on power upgrades that brought no increase in capacity, and instead had used that money to build flying junctions (many of the routes mentioned below have flat junctions that severely limit capacity), improve signalling, build new 12-car trains to add capacity and increase all train lengths to 12-cars, platform extentions, etc, then we would have the capacity to take more passengers by rail instead of pricing them off the rails and onto the roads.
 
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yorkie

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Anyone else got thoughts on this?

I wonder if ATOC are just saying this to highlight the issue of overcrowding, knowing it us unfeasible in the hope that the Government realises it must act and invests to increase capacity?
 

Techniquest

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It's an interesting idea. No idea how you'd put it into practise properly.

One thing that is done on the Cardiff Valleys is to stop people using Cheap Day Returns between 1630 and 1830 M-F. Not sure how effective that is mind.
 

Andrew

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My thoughts are that if the government wants
to reduce the £6.5 billion annual subsidy for the railways
then it can't be too long before they realise that (some people claim) they are paying 3* as much in subsidies to the privatised TOCs compared to what they paid to BR. Perhaps they'll realise that and take note, perhaps they'll just choose to ignore that and try and keep on with privatisation. If they want to save money in the long run, they should seriously consider renationalisation IMO.
 

Andrew

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And I think there was also one at the Labour Conference (IIRC) where they voted FOR it, but Gordon Brown said there wasn't enough money so they weren't going to do it (I may be just misremembering things, sorry if that's the case). Perhaps they thought no-one wanted it, so they could dismiss it by having a vote - that certainly didn't work. But now if they say they want to save on subsidies, then surely they should consider (again) renationalisation. Just my opinion.
 

Guinness

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This is a bad idea. I think people travelling at Peak are already paying enough already. Money should be put into extending current trains etc. rather than increase the charge for people using the railway. It would make people use other forms of transport like the cars and create more problems for that already crowed system.

It just won't work...
 

Met Driver

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yorkie said:
Peak pricing would come on top of the general above inflation increase in fares that the Government plans to impose to reduce the £6.5 billion annual subsidy for the railways.

If the government are going to reduce the subsidy, how else are the companies going to generate the cash needed to run the network? It would seem that fare rises are the only means of making up for this, in which case it isn't a bad idea, more like 'less than ideal'.
 
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