Rail operators call for leisure fares (especially day returns) to increase

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by yorkie, 18 Feb 2019.

  1. thedbdiboy

    thedbdiboy Member

    Messages:
    425
    Joined:
    10 Sep 2011
    The current fares structure was not designed with a routeing guide in mind - it used the concept of 'any reasonable'. In my BR days, 'Any Reasonable' meant just that and was enforced with BR being judge, jury and executioner. There was no waving a routeing guide or an itinerary if you were on a train that the guard considered bore no relation to your ticketed journey. Because the BR system was transposed lock, stock and barrel into the privatisation regulation, the lawyers deemed a routeing guide neccessary. It was a ring bound folder of such complexity that no-one - staff or passenger - really used it, relying instead on common sense. Then journey planners came in and being computerised immediately started exposing hundreds of gaps and errors in the routeing guide - trying to plug those is what has caused the proliferation of restrictions, but the root cause is that modern computerised journey planning is just not compatible with trying to keep track of every conceivable theoretical route possibility. All the proposals do is to set out a framework for a fares structure that is capable of working out the correct price for any journey by any route.

    To be crystal clear - the routeing guide has NEVER worked properly. If what you are saying is that it was simpler to spot the errors in 1995 if you knew where to look, then that is true - but that doesn't make it right.

    Of course, if the actual concern is that train operators might be able to set fares for journeys and be able to ensure that passengers actually pay them, without any opportunity for a select few to be able to spot the errors and omissions and use them to advantage, that is a different thing. But this is a government specified and contracted railway so the notion that somehow it must retain a fares structure full of mistakes just to give people some sport is unsustainable.
     
  2. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    19,022
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    People might buy their ticket on an App, however what they are looking for is (with the exception I've noted in some cases) the same. The TOC's are working against this by reducing flexibility in routing and restricting the ability to obtain decently priced fares at short notice.
     
  3. BigCj34

    BigCj34 Member

    Messages:
    373
    Joined:
    5 Apr 2016
    It's an interesting analogy but as mentioned, NT based Windows didn't hit the mainstream until there was sufficient backward compatibility to support 9x software with XP. Many legacy Windows 9x programmes worked and a fair chunk needed minor patches. However as the NT line of Windows has evolved since then that backward compatibility has diminished.

    The 'backward compatibility' a fares reform needs is cast-iron assurance that no-one is paying more than they are presently, be it from a split ticket combination or a regulated off-peak return. This may not be 'revenue neutral', but then again if everyone paid what they could pay by using splits or not unnecessarily buying Anytime fares the industry revenue would be down anyway. Only from there can fares be innovated with.
     
  4. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

    Messages:
    9,163
    Joined:
    12 Sep 2013
    Location:
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Do they? Is driving into Central London, or Manchester, or Leeds, really a competitor? Is Glasgow to London really feasible by car?

    There are isolated pockets of genuine competition from other modes, e.g. domestic air travel, but they are few and far between.

    Air travel as a mode is no more a captive market than rail, at least for short-haul. Ferries, coaches and trains all provide alternative modes of travel in the same way you're arguing cars do domestically.

    What the air industry has is some competition within mode on popular flows. But where there isn't that competition prices ramp up rapidly. There's a reason why BA charge more to fly Heathrow-JFK than they do Dublin-Heathrow-JFK.

    Not for most people it hasn't. There's a reason the busiest trains are still between 7.30 and 9am and between 5 and 6pm.

    They pay lip service to it, but the clear aim is to remove the natural price cap that regulated off-peak fares provide. There can only be one reason to want to do that.

    Much of the hot air RDG are spouting about shoulder-peak trains can already be achieved with the current fare structure: peak periods can be reduced or Advances can be priced to entice people on to those trains. The fact that the TOCs don't do this, and would prefer to run them half-empty to preserve the high anytime fares, speaks volumes. It's a foretaste of what would happen with deregulation.

    I'll bet Sunday afternoon prices will be the first to skyrocket once off peak price regulation is removed.

    And if you get rid of commuter price controls, well... What are commuters going to do instead, spend three hours in a traffic jam?

    The Williams Review will suggest whatever the fat cats want it to.

    So far it seems to be all about "cutting regulation", as though it's pesky things like regulations preventing price-gouging that are the problem. I guess they are for the greedy fat cats running our TOCs.

    Arguing about fares structures is fiddling with deckchairs. The whole franchising model is rotten to the core.
     
  5. jkdd77

    jkdd77 Member

    Messages:
    548
    Joined:
    16 Nov 2008
    I agree with anme that the current sysyem essentially privatises profits and nationalises losses.

    In this context, I cannot help but suspect that a fares model designed by ATOC and the TOCs would use dubious assumptions on changing passenger behaviour/ ticket usage in order to get DfT approval for the change on the basis that it will supposedly be "revenue neutral", yet turn out in practice to result in huge additional profits for the TOCs from screwing leisure passengers who need flexibility, with this greatly outweighing a tiny loss of revenue by temporarily shaving a small amount from long distance Anytime tickets that few people buy unless travelling on expenses.

    The issue with journeys to/ from Euston is partly caused by Virgin refusing to follow the lead of other intercity TOCs by transferring regulation to a "Super Off-Peak" ticket and using an unregulated Off-Peak ticket to smooth demand during the shoulder-peak.

    If nothing else, the Off-Peak (Day) Return acts as a natural cap on the Off-Peak (Day) Single, which in turn acts as a natural cap on Advance singles. Removing regulation on the former will cause the price of the latter to rocket, and passengers who need flexibility at a reasonable price will have to jump in their cars instead.
     
    Last edited: 20 Feb 2019
  6. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

    Messages:
    9,163
    Joined:
    12 Sep 2013
    Location:
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Coming back to post one. I don't agree: RDG don't want to reduce the Anytime fares!

    There's no reason RDG members can't shorten the peak period or offer cheaper advances on these "empty" trains. They don't because if the advances are too cheap business people and the desperate won't buy anytime fares; it'd be cheaper to buy advances for more than one train if you need some flexibility.

    All RDG want rid of is the price regulation. £300 walk on fares for everyone! Still, it keeps Richard Branson in Carribbean islands and Ann Gloag in Scottish castles and private Neil Sedaka concerts. And who doesn't think that's not a price worth paying?
     
  7. thedbdiboy

    thedbdiboy Member

    Messages:
    425
    Joined:
    10 Sep 2011
    The new system will not be designed by RDG or the TOCs - that is essentially government's role. I know this is really hard for the conspiracy theorists to grasp, but the point of the report is to say that change is necessary; that many of government's own obectives in relation to modernising ticketing can only be achieved with parallel fares reform; and that this change can be done in a financially sustainable way for the government and passengers.
    It does not ask for the fares system to be handed over to TOCs to revise, and under the current industry structure, RDG plays no role in either setting contracts or fares policy - it just 'turns the handle' on industry systems. It is in 'turning the handle' that RDG has unique insights into how the whole system is working (or not, as the case may be), which is why it has produced the report, which is for government to act on, bearing in mind that they have responsibility (both financial and economic as well as to voters) for the rail system.
     
  8. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Messages:
    40,430
    Joined:
    6 Jun 2005
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    But RDG want fares to be less flexible in terms of routeing and times you can travel; they want a railway where you buy tickets for specific trains.
    Yes DfT must decide, but RDG have come up with unworkable proposals.
     
  9. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

    Messages:
    9,163
    Joined:
    12 Sep 2013
    Location:
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Indeed. One of the headlines of the failed Stagecoach ECML franchise was 10% off Anytime tickets to London, as though we should celebrate. Meanwhile many advance ticket prices are now comfortably double what they were under DOR.

    Virgin WC wouldn't even neee to bring in a super off peak; they could price Advances competitively to entice people on to the 1820 or 1840 who'd otherwise be on off peak tickets. Wonder why they don't?

    I'm travelling from London to Carlisle on a Sunday morning soon. The advance ticket is precisely £1 cheaper than the off peak (half) single. I wonder what would happen if the price control of off peak tickets were to be removed?
     
    Last edited: 20 Feb 2019
  10. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    4,387
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    The worrying thing is that Off-Peak Day Singles and Returns are, almost universally, unregulated fares. The TOCs are under no obligation to sell them at all, let alone to price them reasonably. Indeed we've seen TPE get rid of many such tickets in recent years, in an attempt to increase revenue amid a failing financial situation. So the TOCs could introduce some of the reforms they are proposing without permission from the DfT at all! Or alternatively they could use the 'threat' of deleting all Off-Peak Day tickets as a negotiating tool.
     
  11. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Messages:
    40,430
    Joined:
    6 Jun 2005
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    To ensure the current "system" gets labelled as the problem and gets replaced with one that is more favourable for them?
     
  12. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

    Messages:
    9,163
    Joined:
    12 Sep 2013
    Location:
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Hahaha.

    Oh wait. You're actually serious?

    "Train company will rig the system to favour train companies and DfT won't challenge them" isn't a "conspiracy theory"!
     
  13. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

    Messages:
    9,163
    Joined:
    12 Sep 2013
    Location:
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Oh they're workable proposals.

    Just asking RDG to guide rail fares reform is like asking a dingo to be a babysitter.
     
  14. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

    Messages:
    3,927
    Joined:
    24 Dec 2009
    Location:
    Sheffield
    I am glad you think I am "no-one" (and I very much doubt I was the only person who used it), but the 26 map Routeing Guide was not particularly complex if you actually looked at what was in it rather than dismissing it out of hand. It was undeniably less complex that the current 350+ map version.

    If only. To give just one a local example, Sheffield to Nottingham via Derby is a perfectly reasonable route and no BR guard would ever have suggested otherwise. At certain times of day it is still the quickest route between the two cities, notwithstanding the increase in services via Alfreton in recent times. This routeing was correctly included in the original Routeing Guide but has now been removed as an 'error'.

    I don't disagree with that. A major problem was evident in the assertion right at the start of the guide that "most customers wish to make journeys by through trains or by the shortest route". Through trains is correct and, of course, use of them does not involve the Routeing Guide at all. However, if there is no though train, the majority of customers will neither know nor care what the shortest route is, what they will want is the combination of trains which will get them to their destination as quickly as possible. The fastest route from A-B being disallowed by the Routeing Guide is nonsensical (see the SHF-NOT case above, for instance)
     
  15. thedbdiboy

    thedbdiboy Member

    Messages:
    425
    Joined:
    10 Sep 2011
    I was generalising - there were of course staff and customers who were able to use it but it definately wasn't a popular read. I knew the person who wrote the first version and he was a remarkable chap - he took a virtually unmanageable job and managed to produce something that did actually work if you followed the process. However (and this is no criticism of him) as the route maps were computerised all sorts of completely unintended route combinations were revealed. I still have a copy of the original guide!
     
  16. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

    Messages:
    3,927
    Joined:
    24 Dec 2009
    Location:
    Sheffield
    Fair enough.......... So do I !
     
  17. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

    Messages:
    34,800
    Joined:
    20 Oct 2014
    Location:
    Up and down the south WCML (mostly)
    Most notably easyJet do not - you can pick up a very attractive fare for same-day travel if the flight is quiet.
     
  18. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

    Messages:
    34,800
    Joined:
    20 Oct 2014
    Location:
    Up and down the south WCML (mostly)
    There is absolutely no way there can be such a guarantee and nor should there be - it would preclude reform. Revenue neutral, or perhaps slightly revenue-negative, is the best one can hope for.
     
  19. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

    Messages:
    34,800
    Joined:
    20 Oct 2014
    Location:
    Up and down the south WCML (mostly)
    Yes, this was a fundamental error - it should have been quickest, not shortest. The passenger gives not a stuff how far it is.
     
  20. Andrew1395

    Andrew1395 Member

    Messages:
    345
    Joined:
    30 Sep 2014
    Location:
    Bushey
    I sat next to the person who came up with the Routeing Guide. Struggling with the concept the eureka moment was when he was looking at his AA members book with its maps of the Motorway network. The original RG was put together within a few months, to satisfy the privatisation timetable. Of course unlike the original inspiration of giving route planning information in a visual way, the Routeing guide had to cope with an overlay of pricing, with price comparison also used as a determinate of which routes were valid. As a manual check, shortest distance was deemed easier for staff and customers to check for complex multi leg journeys using the opening pages of the printed timetable which had mileages in quarters, than looking for quickest, and searching for the quickest times across multiple timetables, adding them up and finding the quickest route. Which of course unlike distance could vary across the day and days of the week. Maybe too pragmatic to get something done, but there you are. Computers make looking for quickest journeys and shortest journeys very easy. But I think everyone would agree, most customers are lookIng for the quickest journey with fewest changes. Not all but most. As said above when you try to write algorithms to interpret common views of what is reasonable/fair/common sense/traditionally allowed etc. You need rules to follow. And then those computerised systems are overlaid with continual changes to fares and timetables and temporary changes; so it is going to bring real challenges. Oyster in London has a relatively simple zonal fares system that judges price on where you start, where you end and what price zones you cross. No shortest distance, quickest journey, historic pricing checks. Oyster still has lots of complexity that has grown and evolved since introduction. PAYG across the old NSE area is going to be a challenge.
     
  21. Randomer

    Randomer Member

    Messages:
    91
    Joined:
    31 Jul 2017
    Is your position that a 13 fold increase in routing guide maps was down to actual errors or attempts to manipulate revenues like in the Sheffield-Nottingham example above? Is it more likely that a large number of perfectly reasonable routes that have been historically valid have been removed in order to increase revenue (or make revenue sharing determinations easier.)

    I do see your argument but can you honestly say that the routing guide expanding was a result of very few people at the start of the internet age spending significant amounts of time looking for fares that were perfectly valid but TOC didn't like as it undermined there fares revenue? How many people honestly do you think manipulate the routing guide or for example have attended fares workshops ran by this forum, less than 1000?

    The problem with any change in the system isn't that it will make finding perfectly valid but not obvious routes unnecessary but that it will result in more obvious routes becoming prohibitively expensive due to reform of fares regulation placing more control in the hands of TOC rather than the government.

    Perhaps as the RDG has stated there is a need for fares reform the answer is to look much closer at the structure of the railways, as is supposedly being done in the Williams railway review. Keeping in mind that as you have stated nearly 50% of the system in under government management contracts and the rest within a year of new franchise perhaps a system designed where all station to station fares are set by the DFT could be a perfectly valid argument in a system similar to the one proposed by RDG.

    With management contracts like TSGN or LNER becoming the norm a TOC could then choose to increase profits over that allowed by the management contract by increasing passenger numbers with a better passenger offer (rolling stock, on board experience & lack of overcrowding), by offering novel ticketing options and setting pricing and availability for advance fares to match demand (rather than leaving half empty "peak" trains as a policy decision like VTWC.)
     
  22. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    4,387
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    The thing is, the Routeing Guide isn't used at all in the process of revenue distribution. ORCATS distributes revenue based on the fastest journey itineraries available, subject to any route or company restrictions the ticket has. So they are implicitly accepting that customers don't give a hoot about the shortest route, but that they will tend to travel by the quickest route!

    There is nothing wrong with always allowing the shortest route, and indeed it's a sensible idea fundamentally speaking, but I agree that non-overtaken itineraries should always represent a valid route. Of course, that may become not just possible, but the de facto default, if nationwide PAYG is rolled out - as that would presumably have a time cap, like Oyster/contactless, as a form of controlling reasonable routes. That would presumably be based on the fastest itineraries available between the touch-in and out stations, at the time of touch-in.
     
  23. squizzler

    squizzler Member

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    4 Jan 2017
    Why shouldn't there be a transition period where both systems run in parallel? A grace period whilst the new system is running and is the default for people who come up to buy tickets but the old products remain on the market. Presumably the reformed system will even before that be running in shadow mode whilst the massive RDG electronic brain has its heuristic algorithms trained, and to allow folk like Mike@Raileasy (sorry, I can't tag you, must be the "@" in your handle) to debug your interface with it.

    There are loads of services I use, such as BBC whose iPlayer is transitioning to BBC sounds, that allow people to choose both new and old system during a period of transition which is often quite long.
     
  24. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

    Messages:
    5,690
    Joined:
    27 Apr 2011
    I thought the industry had been tasked with coming up with proposals for change? Surely the DfT isn't going to think up proposals itself, RDG will hope they just agree with their proposals....
     
  25. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

    Messages:
    2,503
    Joined:
    4 Dec 2013
    Location:
    Baildon, West Yorkshire
    I take both your points about London, however the capital has a far better developed transport infrastructure & of course it's own fare regulation system in place, so using the car is for those at least within the TfL area certainly not as much of an option.

    However speaking for somewhere like Leeds (possibly Manchester too), the car is very much an alternative and is used far more than any mode of public transport. Try commuting by road from the Aire or Wharfe valleys into Leeds & you'll soon see just how many people still do drive, despite the presence of relatively good value MCards & eyewatering car park prices in Leeds. In fact the section of the A650/A657 route from Bingley through towards Cavlerley & Kirkstall heading into Leeds has been listed as one of the UK's most congested roads outside of London. This despite some of the highest capacity local services in West Yorkshire.

    For longer journeys like Glasgow-London, faced with possible high walk-up fares or a 7+ hour drive, I suspect a lot of people still opt for the drive and an overnight stay. Or of course for pretty much the same price or cheaper, you could fly into somewhere like Gatwick, Heathrow or Stanstead & pay a little more reaching the centre but be there inside of a couple of hours.

    But even popular flows like Heathrow-New York are seeing price competition, for example you can pick up a direct Heathrow-Newark flight with Austrian tomorrow, returning next week for £350. OK its not JFK, but Newark is no more inconvenient for Manhattan than JFK. Airlines are rapidly becoming wise to the fact that people a) want to travel more & b) don't want to pay through the nose. It is in part why airlines like BA are slowly downgrading their in-flight services on many routes to make way for more competitive prices.

    Actually even in the stuffiest, most antiquated parts of the public sector, working patterns are changing rather rapidly. So the 9-5, always peak time commuter flows are going to start spreading out more & more. Change is happening, and I'm afraid this will mean wholesale changes are going to be needed for a fare system that is no longer fit for purpose.
     
  26. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    4,387
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    Glasgow to London has to be one of the best value flows out there, considering the massive service improvements it's seen since privatisation. There are very few peak restrictions, and for that you pay just £147 return. You'd definitely struggle to beat that with the direct (let alone indirect) costs of driving plus a hotel.
     
  27. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    19,022
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    No one forced the TOC's to depart from the concept of "any reasonable route" by making the guide ever more restrictive and convoluted.

    In many ways, I think that a better reform might be to go back to the guide as it was at privatisation, and at a stroke, sweep away all the deadwood regulation that the TOC's have placed on passengers.
     
  28. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    19,022
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    The only thing that is needed to cater for this is carnet style fares. Flexible working is becoming more common, however 9:00 to 17:00 isn't going to go away soon, so products such as traditional season tickets will still be required for a long time yet.
     
  29. Randomer

    Randomer Member

    Messages:
    91
    Joined:
    31 Jul 2017
    If the routing guide has no revenue implications then why are TOC so keen to restrict the validity of routing by ever increasing the complexity of the guide?

    It was my understanding that the revenue distribution was affected by routing guide changes precisely because ORCATS takes into account the route restrictions on a ticket.

    For that matter it also has implications for revenue when cheaper tickets can no longer be used due to new routing restrictions forcing more expensive ones to be used.
     
  30. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    4,387
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    It has revenue implications, because changes to the Routeing Guide can close loopholes, and thus mean that the TOCs earn 'lost' revenue back again. But the Routeing Guide doesn't have any bearing on the distribution of revenue.

    Of course, changes in ticket routes can affect the itineraries considered by ORCATS, so that can indeed have revenue implications. But my point was that the Routeing Guide doesn't affect ORCATS in any way.
     

Share This Page