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Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by yorkie, 18 Feb 2019.
Every company I've ever worked for has given me TOIL for travel time outside working hours.
I have totally the opposite opinion. I actually think a little creative destruction is a good thing here! I am of the camp that consider rail fares have become so convoluted that evolution of the present system is foreclosed, and so revolution it must be. Tear it all down and start again, I say! Obviously the evolutionary and revolutionary sides of the argument are not going to reach agreement, that's just how things are.
Sweeping away the old and replacement with the new is a natural part of life. Death, rebirth, renewal. I follow advances in computing so have some examples there. Around the turn of the millennium both Microsoft and Apple replaced their old systems from the 1980's (DOS based Windows 95, 98, ME to WinNT based XP for Microsoft, Mac OS to the Next based OS-X in Apple's case). This was necessary because the basic architectures behind the old systems had simply become too stuffed with bodges and hacks intended to give modern functionality that a whole clean sheet architecture was needed. Does that mean these firms were bad custodians of their own software? No, it's just that anything can only be improved up to a point before the original assumptions underpinning its design become liabilities. Replacement became inevitable when the benefits long term outweighed the inconvenience to users of doing so. Blackberry and Palm both failed before they could compete a similar evolution their handheld operating system - both had developed lovely new systems the equal of Android or iOS but had acted too late to stop the rot, maybe a lesson for the rail industry there?
I am actually inclined to agree - start completely afresh. I'm just not sure I'd use the base ATOC have used. (Threads passim give a load of alternative ideas)
I'd probably agree, I just wouldn't trust RDG not to build something worse for passengers (in fact, I'd lay bets on a new system being worse!)
Exactly - I'm not against change, but things have to stay as they are until we can be sure that the proposed new system is actually better than the current one, and not just a hidden way of price rises.
Agreed, for example look at the number of units parked up during the middle of the day & weekends. Some of those units only do a single round trip a day (i.e. Southend Victoria - Liverpool Street - ECS to Orient Way - ECS to Liverpool Street - Southend Victoria - ECS to Southend sidings). Happens on all the South East commuter operators.
The OS analogy is probably the best I've seen used for the pricing / ticketing system in this country. Bloated, overly-complex, and completely unfit for it's supposed purpose. As you rightly say, when an OS or indeed any application / system becomes so full of patches & work arounds that it starts to fail, at some point you have to accept that you can't build over the top of it any more & start from scratch. I've said it before on these forums, if enthusiasts have to organise workshops to get even a working knowledge of routing guides & ticketing, then what chance does the average commuter let alone leisure traveller have? Short answer, none!
I haven't yet read through all the RDG proposals yet, so I can't say if I believe them to be the right way forward. But I am pleased to see that the current system is now under real challenge, because this will provoke debate as it has here, & hopefully encourage more ideas & innovations to be put on the table. The current system isn't just broken, its in danger of switching off passengers. Of course it shouldn't just be used to force revenue grabbing by stealth, there will need to be transparency at every stage & revenue neutrality at point of switchover is essential. But that does not mean we simply stick to the current system until everyone is happy, because not everybody will ever be. Yes it may mean the loss of some ultra-cheap seats, but it doesn't necessarily have to impact most leisure travellers by any means.
As an aside, and before anybody jumps down my throat, I am in favour of more government subsidy not less to control prices & increase service levels. The railway network is a key part of this nation's economy, and prices should always, wherever possible kept to a minimum even if the taxpayer has to underwrite it. The benefits of this far outweigh the increased cost to the Treasury in my opinion. Ideally in my mind the DfT would be responsible for revenue setting & collection, and contracting out just the services. But that's for another thread.
If you say so. But my point still stands, any Government that allows this to happen on their watch will not be looked at favourably by the public. The transport secretary (whoever he/she is at the time) will get the blame for "raising commuters fares unfairly". I'd be very surprised if these plans go ahead.
I think you are being way too optimistic. Based on what the RDG have said, it is clear this is not just a "challenge" to fix the existing broken system. It is just a group of private companies wanting to get rid of regulation that they don't like as those regulations (at least try to) protect passengers from unfair restrictions and unfair price rises. I have seen no evidence to suggest that they actually have the passengers interest at heart with any of this.
I don't think a computer operating system is an appropriate comparison to rail fares.
To start with when an operating system changes the old one continues to work and is supported for many years into the future. This couldn't happen with fares. We'd risk suddenly waking up one day finding that journeys that cost £89 now cost £150. Or that travelling on trains we could simply jump on with a ticket bought a few minutes before departure now require a compulsory reservation. None of this would be politically acceptable of course but it demonstrates why you can't just rip up what we have at the moment.
But it is possible, of course, that even if their main motivation is to do that (and I think it is a motivation, but I think it isn't the only one; most businesses do want to extract maximum profit from their customers, but it also isn't in their interest to scare them all off) there are positive outcomes for the passenger too.
Ryanair might be a good example of this - it has many, many bad points, but people still use it because it is cheap.
Spot on. If the proposal for revenue based regulation happens then the target will probably be linked to the turnover projection in the franchise agreement. We'd still have companies like VTEC clinging on raising fares significantly so that they could pay their premium payment to the Government. We already see this with their Advance fares but make no mistake they'd do it with Off Peak fares as well if they were allowed to.
Well like I say, I haven't read it yet although on face value for me it does seem like a challenge to the current system, even if that's currently being driven by the TOCs. Are there definitely seem to be varying opinions on what they are proposing, depending on whom is commenting on the subject which feels like this is going provoke debate and further challenges.
Ultimately more passengers means more revenue, and fairer fares means more passengers. So this being currently driven by TOCs may not be entirely bad. Of course with any change there will be winners and losers, but as commuter, business & leisure user I can see potential for improvements from this. Of course this doesn't mean there will be, which is why I would want to see transparency at every stage of the consultation.
Playing the Devil's Advocate here, and having recently booked a flight with said airline, so long as you understand their pricing policy from the off (as well as the T&Cs like checking in online), it is possible to fly very cheaply & without fuss. Indeed booking a flight with them is at least as easy, maybe even easier than booking trains! However its not a pricing model I would advocate for the railways, but there are lessons to be learned from the airline industry I feel that could benefit passengers just wanting an A to B journey with no thrills, and passengers wanting those extra pops, bells & whistles.
So not only let the fox run the hen house in terms of fares but also have a monopoly on the tech? Lots of travellers are already missing out on cheaper alternatives they might prefer because of the sites they choose to buy from, do you think that would improve if there was just one tech solution?
I certainly think there is a case for a "Ryanair style" website on which you enter what you want and it prices it from combinations of what exists without you having to pay much attention to what those things are (i.e. it would be intended to generate a train specific journey; if it happened to include non-train-specific elements because they were cheaper that's of limited importance). This could be done easily with the existing system but for one thing - return tickets, which massively confuse things.
It's one reason why I'm so much in favour of single fare pricing.
Do I think a single journey planner is a good idea? No not really, I think any monopoly is a bad idea especially with the frankly dishonest selling tactics of some sights (not yours I hasten to add.) Personally I would much prefer the more pro consumer sites remain in business.
However, if the journey planning system is going to get far more complex in terms of by leg pricing it may end up being an inevitable consequence to get a working system.
Can I see an argument for having a single specification of ticketing app so that the current confusion of mobile ticketing is solved, yes. Probably going towards a system where activation was centrally registered or for train only tickets requiring just a name or reference number given to the person checking tickets like in France.
There is one - the newer e-ticket system (which does not require activation). Trouble is not all TOCs have adopted it yet. It's not quite as flexible as the French system, but does at least allow you to present the barcode in any format of your choosing (printed or device).
From page 51 with the diagrams:
"KMPG modeling showing smoothed demand on long distance travel could reduce overcrowding by up to a third on some services"
So KMPG have a rail demand management model? Did they have that or develop it specifically? Has it been validated by any organisation? Is it open for "inspection"? Pretty important I'd have thought if this exercise is to be revenue neutral for the taxpayer. Do those diagrams look revenue neutral? Forecasting hasn't exactly been one of the rail industry's strong points.
Also, if this model is indeed "robust", why can't it be used now to set advance prices to fill up quiet services? Someone talked about the lack of data, anonymised mobile data could be used to track tests of reducing current fares to see if it stimulates enough new demand to increase overall income.
It's also estimated this exercise will drive 300m new journeys in 10 years, i.e about 2% growth. Doesn't seem like a lot when getting new users is the way to keep prices down.
"Example long distance intercity route before and after fares reform, based on the average fare as a mix of standard anytime, off-peak, advance and season tickets, with the proportionate mix of customers buying each type".
So the "detail" is available?
To be fair, the statement in pink, modelled or otherwise, is well within the remit of Papal Roman Catholisicm or ursine arboreal defecation, at least to anyone who has ever travelled out of Euston of a Friday evening.
Didn't think I'd ever agree with Mike but I agree here. I don't think its feasible to let any one party own the backend TIS. Competition in the market is currently almost non-existent as things stand. Forcing all the players to use a single TIS will kill off innovation in the industry completely. Not sure its likely that RDG will develop their solution though. We've all seen how large "government" IT projects have gone in the past.
I would suggest that the situation might be similar that which led to the Staggers Act which freed the US rail freight industry from a a regime of fixed tariffs in 1980, unleashing a decade of rapid growth. The industry in the States had been on the ropes in the 1970's with severe underinvestment and major class 1 systems going into administration.
What is needed for reform is a transport secretary with nothing to lose in terms of reputation. I wonder when one of those might come along?
ATOC/RDG have managed to develop the National Rail planner as probably the best one of the lot, though, including support for split tickets in the manner that this system proposes (i.e. it doesn't go "no, ner ner ne ner ner" if you want to do an odd route, it prices it up as a split). So how's it implausible that they might simply add a retail function to it and away you go?
You're a coder, how easy/difficult do you think it would be to build a travel demand predictor? Assume it would need a fair bit of AI?
That's not allowed, it's a workaround and not fair
You're also be branded a "PEST" - pesky extreme split ticketer
Its nto omandatory though
Return tickets have seemingly worked well for decades now- its only you and a very few others who want single leg pricing which says a lot for how bad the idea really is.
Ryanair charge extremely high fares close to departure because they know last-minute air tickets are usually a distress purchase.
The same thing will happen with the railways, except with the added bonus that TOCs do not generally have any meaningful competition.
When Ryanair have a monopoly they certainly aren't cheap!
I, however, cannot. The TOCs do not have any meaningful competition. Those booking 6 months in advance may grab cheap fares but everyone else will be shafted. The current regulatory system acts as a brake against price gouging, but getting rid of it removes that brake. Dynamic pricing only ever leads to astronomical price gouging for anyone who has to travel at short notice; look what airlines charge for last minute tickets!
TOCs do have competion though, cars. It is true where airlines have little or no competition they do price gouge on late ticket sales. But throw in a couple of budget airlines and things change quickly. And whilst there are no options for budget competition on the rails, cars for represent a viable alternative for many.
However for the most part airlines have a captive market, trains do not. Most passengers do have a choice, price them out and watch the passenger numbers fall off a cliff, in particular services used more by leisure passengers. TOCs will be aware of this, despite what many people believe. And if they don't, then they will go the way the airline companies that ignored the changing face of passenger demand.
There is some competition from private cars but in many cases there isn't. For example, commuting to a job in Central London simply isn't an option by car. Likewise a long distance day trip (whether business or leisure) often isn't feasible by car.
You don't buy air tickets the same way that you did in 1995. The High Street has changed beyond recognition. The Monday-Friday 9-5 full time office job has changed. People don't get their news from newspapers and TV. London didn't have Oyster. I'm just skimming the surface.
If you look at the report and my posts you will see that the proposals all recognise and are designed to deliver good value tickets, flexibility and the ability to make plans and change your travel plans at short notice.
Oh, and it is the government that decides and specifies the contracts - not TOCs, all of whom have only short term tenure of their services. The major factor is what reforms the Williams review proposes - and whatever they are, they will be enhanced by bringing the fares structure into the 21st century.