Standing on long rail journeys to be banned under Virgin Trains plan for airline-style fare

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by duncanp, 24 Apr 2019.

  1. Adsy125

    Adsy125 Member

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    But for all sorts of reasons people can't always book, and need to travel last minute, in that situation, yes I would prefer to stand for 6 hours than wait for 3 hours longer than necessary, wouldn't you?
     
  2. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Trains are often full in advance. Second tickets are unavailable on some trains, so passengers are required to travel First at much higher cost. What if you couldn't stay an extra night, or needed to travel urgently? How is this system better for anyone other than the fussiest people who dislike passengers standing up around them?
     
  3. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    More importantly, taking away the flexibility makes the transport mode that bit more unattractive. Having recently travelled in France, it seemed ridiculous that I had to tie myself onto a booked train for what was essentially a local journey from Montauban to Toulouse. It demonstrated a perfect example of how "intercity" trains can double up as regional express or even local services. I was happy to faff about and book myself onto a train because I like travelling by train, but how many other people would instead think, "sod it, I'll just drive and save myself hassle" ?
     
  4. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    If it was urgent, I'd drive (or maybe fly) instead, at the fee limes there was absolutely no last minute availability.
     
  5. al78

    al78 Established Member

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    Great, lets drive people onto already overcrowded roads or the most environmentally damaging mode of transport :rolleyes:.
     
  6. gazzaa2

    gazzaa2 Member

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    How does banning standing work, and booking a specific train, if trains are cancelled, which they frequently are?
     
  7. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    In all probability there will be spare seats on that train as someone whose booked a ticket and compulsory reservation won't show up (happens for all sorts of reasons).

    The empty seat won't be able to be used by a standing passenger (as they're not allowed and the seat can't be re-sold as the train company won't know that the passenger isn't going to show) and will end up empty (or conveying someone's bag) while passengers who want to or need to travel urgently are left standing on the platform.
     
  8. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Same as it does on airlines. Or TGVs.
     
  9. gazzaa2

    gazzaa2 Member

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    To be honest I don't really know how it does work on airlines as I don't really fly and when I have there hasn't been an issue.

    If a whole route is down (i.e. Sheffield to Manchester) then what's their alternative if they've got booked tickets and other trains are all booked?

    Under booking only, If i'm going to London today from the north west and the train i'm booked on is cancelled last minute and i've got a flight at Heathrow to catch for a holiday, but all other services are full, do I have to cancel the holiday?

    I know flights do get cancelled (more often just delayed so you're waiting at the airport) but so many more things can and do go wrong on the railway that you can't account for.
     
    Last edited: 3 Aug 2019
  10. PeterC

    PeterC Established Member

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    In other words with dedicated boarding gates. Usualy possible at a terminus but at an existing British through station with island and/or bay platforms?
     
  11. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Better ask SNCF how they’ve been doing it for 38 years!
     
  12. CheshireCrusty

    CheshireCrusty Member

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    As a very long time frequent but irregular passenger on the WCML, I thoroughly approved of Virgin's introduction of a capacity controlled fare pricing system when they took over the franchise from BR.
    I had too often come unstuck, (and for example only using a more recent TPE example, but happened regularly under BR on the WCML) where when on booking your ticket you had no information on the likely passenger loading on a particular service resulting in say 25% of the passengers completing a 4 hour Manchester to Edinburgh journey having to stand for the entire journey when it turned out the next service (in the TPE example 2 hours later and both 2x185) had seats free because there was no price differentiation. You also had peculiar loading issues, for example on the successors to the former Manchester Pullman services; First Class was often overbooked whereas Standard Class on the same train was nearly empty.
    What I want to see is when I am considering my journey (whether that is weeks or 30 minutes
    beforehand) is what seats are available on which train and the cost of those seats (exactly like the Paris to Nice example in the post above). If the train is nearly full and all the available tickets are expensive, I will then consider my alternatives including changing journey times, even to the extent of the day of travel, and alternative routes and mode of travel (although air is no longer a viable alternative for me as it was is in BR's days, partly due to the loss of competition on the route) to primarily increase my comfort and also save money.
    I remain entirely convinced that for "intercity" rail journeys a mandatory advance booking system is a priority. For the limited number of passengers who commute using the same train everyday, the convenience of having a reserved seat on your train should be a bonus. If for any reason you cannot make you pre-booked train then you can rebook for a small (and this needs to be reduced possible to zero) administration fee and release your seat for another passenger. While a small amount of overbooking can be permitted by the train operator using jump seats, notified cancellations, and a small allowance for experience determined unfilled reservations, or (as Virgin used to do) a small number of seats left unbooked for members of their "Traveller" Club of regular travellers. If you need to travel at the last minute and don't have a reservation then at your origin station you can pay an enhanced fare (the national Anytime fare) and take pot luck on being able to get a seat but accept the risk of being turned away if the train is already overbooked.
    I accept that standing should be permitted in situations where there has been a disruption to service, but train operators should not be allowed to sell tickets in excess of the seating capacity of the particular train.
     
  13. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Ah, I see. You approve of departures from London to Manchester on Thursday afternoons at 1700 witha a large number of empty seats, and then massive numbers of passengers on the 1857 and 1900 enduring two hours on their feet? One Thursday I was travelling recently the 1920 also departed full and standing.

    VT won't allow prices to fall on the departures around 1700, because they know so many people will buy the £175 Anytime ticket to use these, rather than selling £40 - 50 Advances which will generate them less revenue overall. Mandatory booking would augment this effect, and conspire to raise prices even further.
     
  14. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    This is all very well but I really don't think it's feasible once you start to give it some thought. For example:

    Are you really saying that someone making a journey between, for example, Warrington and Wigan, Kettering and Wellingborough or Reading and Swindon can't just turn up and go but has to book ahead to secure a seat?

    What happens when doing long distance journey on multiple trains where a small delay causes a missed connection (not really 'disruption' in the true sense). Are you really saying that a person who might miss a connection by a few minutes then has to queue up at a ticket office to secure a reservation? Then what happens when there isn't a seat available? Do they get stranded and abandon their journey or are they allowed to stand?

    I recently travelled from East Kilbride to Stevenage using the return portion of an Off Peak Return. I didn't know exactly what time my meeting would finish at East Kilbride and one of the advantages of such a ticket is that I not only have flexibility on timing but also on routeing. I could travel with VTWC via Euston or across to Edinburgh then south with LNER. I decided at the last minute which way I was going to go but withw your proposals I would lose that flexibility completely.

    Also, where do you draw the line with which services require compulsory reservations? Virgin, LNER etc are all probably in scope for your plan but what about GWR? If so which GWR services? How about TPE? or Scotrail? Or services on HS1? Cambridge Cruiser? It would be ridiculous and completely enforceable in my opinion.
     
  15. PR1Berske

    PR1Berske Established Member

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    Surely if you know a train is pre-book only, you'd pre-book?

    What's wrong with thinking that, "Seats are a privilege, not a right."?
     
  16. PeterC

    PeterC Established Member

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    That doesn't sound very much like "capacity controlled pricing".

    To play Devil's Advocate with mandatory reservations you can have proper demand based pricing with fares for everybody being adjusted rather than a quota of ultra cheap fares.
     
  17. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Cheshire crusty said they wholeheartedly approved of Virgin Trains' policy. That's their policy...
     
  18. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    Well, we don't yet know which trains would be pre-book only under Virgin's proposals. But, realistically, even on VTWC there are few flows which wouldn't cause problems.
     
  19. The Ham

    The Ham Established Member

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    Something else which is worth considering is that, if we assume that this becomes something which is rolled out to (say) HS2 services, is the sheer number of people who would be doing so.

    It is expected (although rail growth is currently higher than predicted, so it could easily be higher than this) that HS2 would have about 300,000 passengers a day, which is about 100 million a year. That's about the same as the whole of the TGV network in a network about 1/3 the size.

    That's a lot of booking transactions to manage and process. That's fine as long as the system can cope, but if there's any IT/comms failure there's little chance of being able to fall back to a paper system.

    Will people find that the guard had no record of their booking of the train is unable to get updates (i.e. if a booking is made at a station ticket office on a fixed line minutes beforehand in an areas where the train has poor data connections)?

    If a gaurd can't process a card payment because of a IT/Comms issue they can make the judgment as to what to do (generally try again later or give the passenger the advice to buy a ticket at a station where they need to change or at the end of the route).

    There's also the issue of how do you ensure that personal details are limited in where they are stored (to reduce the risk of GDPR breaches)? Would the booking be linked to a person or just a ticket number? If a person are they able to buy tickets for other people if so how do you know that the person traveling (as there's no requirement for individuals to carry an ID card) is who they are supposed to be, or does that not matter?

    What about those who just miss a train due to a connection being missed can they rebook after they were supposed to board (it happened to me yesterday, a train I was on was running late so it rolled in to the station as the train I was hoping to catch rolled out), or would such things happen automatically? As the system would know that I wouldn't make that service so would put me on the next one, however what if there's no space for two hours at the time it tried or would I be put on a priority list which locked future bookings on the earlier services until I was given first refusal? Which is fine for one or maybe two people but a family of five?

    What about those children under 5 who currently don't need to buy a ticket, how would you book them onto the service? Having them sitting on laps wouldn't work as it could be possible to have 3 under 5's traveling with one adult, they are not all going to fit on one lap (even if they did nobody would want to be in that other seat)! I'd almost be tempered to get a group of parents to go on an outing on such a pre bookable only train service to see if it works with a group with (say) 10 under 5's.

    I know that, depending on the age of the child, I'd rather stand with them in "my" seat than have them on my lap, especially as trains are starting off/stopping.

    [EDIT] What if you could, for free, book a seat for a child? What's to then stop people from doing so to ensure that they get a pair of seats to themselves? [/EDIT]

    Yes it could work, but the finer details need to be fully considered otherwise the rail industry is going to be left with egg on its face if it gets it wrong. Headlines such as "disabled veteran left on station as seats booked by babes in arms" or "standing band on trains, not if you're a single mother" aren't going to do the industry any favours (although examples may be rare you only need one to happen for certain news organisations to make it into a mountain).

    The aviation industry sells tickets to 2 year olds with younger children in laps (less likely to have many children under 2), which is how they get around it, as they have a captive market. The rail industry are unlikely to be able to do so without a certain amount of backlash and/or loss of revenue.

    Edit, see section insert above about free seat bookings
     
    Last edited: 4 Aug 2019
  20. squizzler

    squizzler Member

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    I am impressed at how these full trains SNCF seem to offer much better value for money (in distance per unit of money) than my perception of what you would be liable for if you showed up and demanded an 'on the day, walk-up' fare on a UK operator like East Coast and Virgin. No doubt somebody will work out how these metrics compare, but perception is everything and for myself personally it seems a fair price to pay to go to Nice during the peak season and buying on the day. Unlike the UK walk-on fare, the last minute passenger in the examples given is 'forced' to sit on a first class seat rather than enjoying the 'freedom' to stand in a vestibule in standard. Oh my heart bleeds.
     
    Last edited: 4 Aug 2019
  21. SwindonBert

    SwindonBert Member

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    On commuter routes into London on the GWML the lack of capacity at peak hours would mean numerous people having to
    Agree, On commuter routes into London on the GWML the lack of capacity at peak hours (even after the increase in seats with the new service) would mean numerous people having to find alternative transport to and from work
     
  22. CheshireCrusty

    CheshireCrusty Member

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    That is essentially what I was suggesting.

    I certainly do not approve of this - the overcrowding on the later trains is because you can travel on these trains with a no reservation required "Off Peak" ticket. As a consequence there is no effective capacity control on these services.
    Virgin do discount the Anytime fare on peak services - not by much I agree and probably only related to the agent's commission that might be paid. What I take as the warning signs are those trains where there are no advance tickets offered - a sign that the train is already fully booked. A few years ago, I even saw a train where an advance ticket was offered at 20% more than the Anytime fare - that seemed to me a sensible way of giving the urgent traveller who needs to travel on a particular service a chance to get to get a seat but at a cost.
    I used the term "intercity" to restrict my comments to "long" distance limited stop services. One of the problems with the British Rail system is that such services are also expected to provide a "commuter" local service as well. I always avoid the Manchester - London services that call at Milton Keynes due to the deluge of non capacity controlled passengers.
    Subject to line capacity constraints I think such short distance services should be diverted onto appropriate local trains. I do not regard Cross Country for example as suitable for a long distance journey for that reason and for example a Manchester to Reading journey I book as two separate tickets Manchester to London and London to Reading using my capacity control yardsticks despite the longer journey time and the hassle of the Euston-Paddington interchange, but it is usually cheaper. Manchester to Birmingham I now always use the car, despite the problems with the M6, partly because it is quicker but also because I never had a Cross Country journey I did not regard as uncomfortable due to overcrowding since the franchise changed from Virgin (not that it did not happen with Virgin as well).
    I recognise that this does give some problems with some long distance operators e.g. TPE and at present I tend to avoid them preferring for example to travel Warrington to Scotland on Virgin than my most local service (Manchester Airport), partly because of the greater capacity of the trains.
     
  23. Peter Mugridge

    Peter Mugridge Established Member

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    The thing about the 17.00 vs the 18.57, 19.00 and 19.20 surely suggests that - to use one of the railway's own favourite phrases - the anytime fares are beyond what the market will bear?
     
  24. sprunt

    sprunt Member

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    To an extent, but an issue with the Anytime fare is that it's set not to maximise usage, but to maximise revenue - if they reduce it, they will sell more tickets, but possibly not enough more to make up for the reduction.
     
  25. JamesRowden

    JamesRowden Established Member

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    Or that more grades of time restricted tickets are required to soften the transitions between peak and off-peak.
     
  26. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    In other words more price increases....
     
  27. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    Just an observation on the idea that such a policy (advanced bookings only and no standing) could be made to work by using technology.

    I was on the 1747 Liverpool - Euston yesterday.

    Among all the "Available if unoccupied" messages {not very helpful ten minutes before departure!} were two particularly interesting reservations:

    Reserved from Stockport
    Reserved from Macclesfield

    Yep, the technology seems pretty robust to me ... (sarcasm alert)
     
  28. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Nearly all long-distance trains in the UK double as services for daily commuters somewhere.

    Express trains from Edinburgh to London carry afternoon commuters home from Newcastle to Darlington. London or Birmingham to Glasgow trains offer the only service Crewe <> Warrington <> Wigan, or along with trains from Manchester, Oxenholme <> Penrith <> Carlisle. These are all short hops. All will have some daily commuters. LNER provide several departures from London to Stevenage in the height of the evening peak, passengers from these trains would be unlikely to be accommodated elsewhere.

    Diss isn't served by any 'local' trains at all but has many commuters to Norwich and Ipswich. Express trains from London carry daily commuters to Manchester city centre from Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Stockport. On which alternative services will all of these people be accommodated if they no longer use the long-distance trains with their season tickets?

    How do you propose Huddersfield to Leeds daily commuters with their annual Mcards travel, if they become barred from Liverpool to Newcastle expresses?

    Most CrossCountry routes are simply a chain of commuter routes between very popular station pairs stuck together. Very few of their services go significant distances without stopping at all, Birmingham to Cheltenham or York to Darlington is about as far as it goes (both are absolutely commutable daily), yet they'll also carry passengers travelling many hundreds of miles from the North East to the West Country.

    Are you saying we should completely re-write the entire national timetable to suit your preferences?

    In the Paris to Nice example at least, many trains are non-stop for 3 hours out of Paris - and the trains are still filled. It's still rather ridiculous that you can't just hop on from Cannes to Nice with your existing ticket for the local trains and occupy any vacant seat or stand for 25 minutes, but at least there are 50 odd daily departures in total there. There are only 19 departures from, say, Crewe to Wigan, and every one of them a long-distance train.
     
    Last edited: 7 Aug 2019

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