"MPs Fighting to Save Hull Trains"

westv

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According to the Hull Daily Mail.



A Hull Labour MP has joined with a Conservative from the East Riding in calling on the government to address "genuine doubts" over the future of Hull Trains.

Diana Johnson and David Davis wrote to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris warning the operator's reliance on ticket sales meant it now faced a "Catch 22" dilemma.

The Hull North and Haltemprice and Howden MPs said Hull Trains would not be able to resume services without government support offered to other non-open access operators.
 
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yorkie

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For a start, social distancing on trains has to end (I've created a thread for that at https://www.railforums.co.uk/thread...ic-transport-thus-increasing-capacity.205564/ )

Secondly, the Government needs to stop deterring people from using public transport (operators have urged this; thread here: https://www.railforums.co.uk/thread...govt-should-fund-rail-until-sept-2021.205270/ )

I can't see taxpayers money going into saving open access operators, over and above the usual arrangements for private businesses, but the Government could land itself in hot water if they continue to deter the use of public transport.

But this is a very distorted market; at least one other train company that serve Hull is actively trying to tell people they shouldn't be using trains, while being bankrolled by Government.

It's a very tricky situation, which has to be handled sensitively to avoid terrible PR for the Government and perhaps even a legal case, depending on what happens next...
 

py_megapixel

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Though it would be sad to see the service go, especially for those who use it on a regular basis, I have very little sympathy with the company.
Open access is supposed to be supplementary to franchised TOCs, not an essential service. So it shouldn't be the government's place to bail them out.

If they aren't profitable, they aren't profitable and they will either die or be run at a loss, but the beauty of the open access system is that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. There is always an alternative service to fall back on in the event that one collapses (even if it involves a change of train), which means that the addition of open-access services shouldn't carry a risk to the government - and yet, here we are...

Honestly I would suggest that the DfT should let Hull Trains die and then run LNER services in the same paths to avoid cutting services to Hull. Not because I am opposed to open access operations - I think they are a great idea - but because bailing them out sets a precedent for other open access operators that if they build up enough loyal users on their service then the government will pay for it.

Of course, adding more services on LNER is not as simple as just flicking a switch, but the Hull Trains rolling stock is now very similar to LNER (and so could transfer fairly easily, one would hope) and pathing wouldn't be a concern to just move services between TOCs.
 

yorkie

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Though it would be sad to see the service go, especially for those who use it on a regular basis, I have very little sympathy with the company.
Open access is supposed to be supplementary to franchised TOCs, not an essential service. So it shouldn't be the government's place to bail them out...
Maybe, but I'm not sure if the current situation is fair on Hull Trains; the Government - and, in particular, the train companies bankrolled by the Government - are deterring people from using the trains in a manner that is probably unjustifiable. Is any other country in Europe deterring public transport usage to quite this extent? Is it reasonable? Are their actions even lawful?
 

py_megapixel

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Maybe, but I'm not sure if the current situation is fair on Hull Trains; the Government - and, in particular, the train companies bankrolled by the Government - are deterring people from using the trains in a manner that is probably unjustifiable. Is any other country in Europe deterring public transport usage to quite this extent? Is it reasonable? Are their actions even lawful?
That's an interesting point, one which I hadn't thought of. Thinking about it, it does seem that the government has sabotaged open access TOCs a bit, given that the franchised operators are effectively being underwritten by the government at the moment.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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TPE is another franchise player in this, operating essentially the same fleet type as HT and also owned by First Group.
First Group also have their plans for the London-Edinburgh open access service, again with the same fleet type.
I'd expect First Group would be talking to DfT about a solution for all their interests, not just HT.
 

Skymonster

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Hull Trains isn't helping itself at present. It is not operating at all, the website has a timetable that is only valid until May 16, and there is no information about a restart and when that might happen. So anyone who does need to plan travel is unable to consider HT. But it is already effectively getting government assistance in the form of the staff furlough. If it wants to re-emerge from its self-inflicted shut down, the business could show some good faith by running maybe one or two round trips a day, maybe using only one or two of the five units, and provide guidance on when frequencies might be ramped up further so at least travellers can start to consider HT again.
 

westv

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Hull Trains isn't helping itself at present. It is not operating at all, the website has a timetable that is only valid until May 16, and there is no information about a restart and when that might happen. So anyone who does need to plan travel is unable to consider HT. But it is already effectively getting government assistance in the form of the staff furlough. If it wants to re-emerge from its self-inflicted shut down, the business could show some good faith by running maybe one or two round trips a day, maybe using only one or two of the five units, and provide guidance on when frequencies might be ramped up further so at least travellers can start to consider HT again.
They did run a passenger survey a week or two ago but, as yet, they haven't published any results.
 

fgwrich

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TPE is another franchise player in this, operating essentially the same fleet type as HT and also owned by First Group.
First Group also have their plans for the London-Edinburgh open access service, again with the same fleet type.
I'd expect First Group would be talking to DfT about a solution for all their interests, not just HT.
Indeed, I wonder if the spanner will well and truly be put in the works with that or if First Group will continue to pursue it. While the idea of £30 ticket from London to Scotland might sound nice, will another open access operator, and one with a brand new fleet under construction (not cheap) prove to be sustainable?
 

westv

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Louise Cheeseman has her say

Ms Cheeseman said business for Hull Trains had been "flying" until services were suspended on March 30 in line with government instructions to operators as lockdown began.

All but five of the company's 130 staff were furloughed when services ceased. The managing director said: "When coronavirus hit we put our business into isolation and furloughed most of the staff.


"The decision to furlough staff was a difficult and heart-wrenching one, but it was the right thing to do to protect our business.

"But we can't stay in hibernation forever. So I'm now talking to stakeholders to try and explain why Hull Trains is so important for the region and to get some form of support.

"For the last 20 years Hull Trains has been moving about one million people a year between Hull and East Yorkshire and the capital.


"We need the government to change its message around travel and start encouraging people to see rail as a viable option.

"We're looking to resume a small service of about two trains a day but we don't have a date for that yet. We're looking at a regional plan to see how that would work."

Ms Cheeseman said the company's status as an open access operator had seen it left out of government efforts to support other rail operators running as franchises.
 

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