The Industry vs Its 'Customers'

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Starmill, 17 Apr 2015.

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  1. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    What does anybody else think about the current attitude the emanates from the private companies that operate our trains, and their industry representative, our lovely readers at ATOC?

    Not so long ago, Arriva did a press release saying they wanted to end national ticketing. They essentially want us to drink their urine and praise the vintage. There have been increases in restrictions to fares on Northern, across CrossCountry and elsewhere and more pain than ever before when each new set of fares comes out (thinking of Travelcards with some emphasis).

    Some disputes have come to light on this forum where certain train companies (not looking at you Southeastern) have decided with relation to some things that this is a position they have taken, the rules, their franchise and their customers bedamned. We also have to question the role of people at RSP if you take a look at the changes they have made to National Rail Enquiries and trying to remove historical permissions.

    What can the politicians, whom we are now choosing, and who hardly seem to be discussing transport and railways at all, actually do about private companies who get to big for their boots? And why is it now that top level management (yes you, Alex Hynes) are so blatantly ignorant of what their franchise needs?

    And, of course, the natural question, would nationalisation, or perhaps a change of model that ends franchising, ensure that the railway can actually be run for the benefit of its passengers, rather than some shareholders?
     
    Last edited: 17 Apr 2015
  2. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Have the railways of Britain ever been run for the benefit of their passengers rather than for those charged with running them?
     
  3. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    No. You caught me :oops: Shouldn't edit on the hoof!
     
  4. Greenback

    Greenback Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For me, the problem, as usual, lies in the way the industry has been privatised and how it's structured. The artificial com[petition for franchises might be seen as driving up standards, but how effective is it really when you look at the bigger picture? How much doe sit cost to bid for a franchise? It's shouldn't be a surprise that companies want to amend or ignore the rules they agreed to in the quest for increased revenue and profits.

    Above all that, there's the genuine lack of knowledge of how the fares system works within the TOC's themselves and certainly within government. You can add in a lack of proper regulation and, seemingly, no desire to change anything in that respect. No one seems interested in enforcing the rules and the Routeing Guide, which was introduced in order to safeguard passengers rights, appears to be increasingly ineffective.

    Still, I'm thankful that we retain so much of what was under threat of withdrawal when BR was privatised. I can hardly believe it now, 20 odd years later, but there were serious proposals to have no interavailability between operators at all, and for every train company to have their own ticket desks at major stations, just like an airport.
     
  5. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    The simple fact is you cannot have collaborative working in a competitive environment. The lack of collaborative working means that the service suffers.

    It goes from the basics, like connections not being held, or staff from one TOC not having the knowledge to assist passengers of another TOC at the same station. It results in ticketing disputes which result in serious penalties for passengers if you misunderstand the rules or make a mistake. It results in a urinating contest whenever anything goes wrong, trying to blame everyone else for delays rather than working together to get the show back on the road.

    And it goes even deeper than that. The environment is competitive, so TOCs won't work together, and rules of the competition are that money is the scoring mechanism. So TOCs will try and bend the rules to increase their revenues, they will bring in ridiculous rules like "peak time" ending at 11am and starting again four hours later, because the only way of judging the competition is in pounds and pence.

    You see the same thing in all the utilities and services where the government have chosen competitive working rather than collaborative working. The service goes down the pan, the "customer" is seen as nothing more than cattle to be milked for cash, and every time something goes wrong everyone expends all their energy blaming each other rather than trying to sort out the mess.

    Now that's not to say we shouldn't be judging companies and services on efficiency, but somewhere along the line every other measure of success- satisfaction, successful outcomes, etc etc- seems to have fallen by the wayside.

    Nationalisation wouldn't really change much if the way of keeping score was still based solely on money.
     
  6. Greenback

    Greenback Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think that you can have collaborative working, but it does go against competition. Since we don't have true competition on our railways, then we can have a degree of collaboration. It's possible to argue that this leads to the worst of both worlds, though I'm not sure I'd completely agree with that.

    I agree with gist of your post, though, it's true that competition is normally the enemy of collaboration. And we have become experts in the UK at judging success in monetary terms.
     
  7. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    One may well draw a connection to those who were once the prime movers in those "battery chicken" farms and wonder how much thought that they gave to the animals in their "care"..<(
     
  8. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    I agree.
     
  9. SaveECRewards

    SaveECRewards Member

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    Customer service is something the two Virgins need to sort out. As they're separate companies there's a lot of confusion from the general public. Many tweet @VirginTrains when they have an East Coast issue and a few tweet @Virgin_TrainsEC with a West Coast issue. So there's a lot of cases where people get passed between the two franchises.

    What's worse is they often pass to the other franchise without checking who operates the route. For example someone tweeted Virgin Trains about Cambridge to Kings Cross, they immediately passed it over to East Coast without actually checking who ran the route. The worst one was when they passed a Manchester to Lincoln question to East Coast when you'd think they'd realise VTEC don't serve Manchester.

    It would work so much better if the customer relations address and twitter feeds were unified and had staff from both able to access them then they'd easily be able to be dealt with by the correct person.
     
  10. kermit

    kermit Member

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    Still needing that "like" button - well put! :D
     
  11. RT4038

    RT4038 Member

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    Just about everything in our society, and our lives, revolves around money, and the use of money as a means of comparison. It is a simple absolute that everyone understands. Money in exceeding Money out is an absolute measure of success. Until the staff and suppliers can be paid in satisfaction and successful outcomes, money is going to remain king. Whether this is an individual, a company or a whole country, makes no difference.

    Satisfaction and successful outcomes can be used as a blunt indicator (but these are subjective terms, depending on the views of who you ask), and indeed are in the railway industry: (satisfaction of passengers vs. satisfaction of taxpayers prepared to subsidise [i.e. suspend/modify the rules of Money In Money Out, within the overarching financial situation of the whole country] and this is loosely called politics).
     
  12. SPADTrap

    SPADTrap Established Member

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    Quite, and for as long as the railways are seen as a business this won't change.
     
  13. RT4038

    RT4038 Member

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    And how could the railways (or any other activity) not be seen as a business? The planet is populated by humans, who seem to be mainly motivated by acquiring riches; any activity which does not is largely done marginally in leisure time. Not sure how the railways could operate in some kind of non-business vacuum?
     
  14. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    It would appear that the majority of the rail operations in this country cannot cover their operating costs through the fare box alone. Whilst the railways might benefit from business-like practices, they can't be run for profit alone.
     
  15. bluenoxid

    bluenoxid Established Member

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    I would say the railways are run to the benefit of the customer. That customer being the contract managers within government who manage the franchises

    Rail passengers are consumers.
     
  16. SPADTrap

    SPADTrap Established Member

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    As a necessity to mass transit? Something a government could 'swallow' the expense of in order to move people and make gains elsewhere? It might be fairytale and I can't see it happening either but doesn't change what I said being true, as long as it is a business then there will be some aspect of industry vs customers.
     
    Last edited: 18 Apr 2015
  17. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    Er... haven't we tried that already.
     
  18. al.currie93

    al.currie93 Member

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    Very good statement :)

    London Underground is operated on those principles (a necessity/public service), is it not? And that works very well.
     
  19. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    Nationalized Railway (BR), Been there, done that.

    Not that I wish to turn this into any talk of renationalisation but the government taking the responsibility and swallowing the cost just isn't gonna happen and I personally wouldn't want it.

    For any company to run the railway there has to be an incentive. That incentive is financial. I like it being run as a business and I would dump the entire cost to the passenger. NR are **** loads in debt and the government just could not "swallow" any further cost. What I do like it the "management contract" for the franchises. They give a financial incentive to the TOC as well as keeping government interests more in check.
     
  20. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    I recall NR track access costs being discussed on here, one view being that NR seems to be undercharging its customers, particularly FOCs, with regard to the true cost of the infrastructure. This is supposedly one of the reasons for NR's spiralling debt.
     
  21. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    I would be very interested to know, if the railway were run as a pure public service, if, taken together, all of the fare and rent revenues would come close to balancing the operating costs. It's often said that at the end of BR, NSE broke even, and InterCity made about as much profit as Regional Railways lost. Add to that years of above inflation increases in the 00s, and huge passenger growth, and I'd be willing to bet that total revenue in the sector has grown faster than current expenditure. In the malaise of the franchising mess, we have no way of knowing. But if there's some measure of profit in the industry as a whole, and I strongly suspect there would be if we stipped out all of the private investment and subsidies, premiums and revenue support etc, that could then be used to build the improvements that are seen as required by the industry. Surely that's better than having to go to the taxpayer with a begging bowl and having to build business cases for things which are obviously needed even without one, such as the South Western inland link, and maybe prevent some politically motivated projects that definetly do NOT have a case, such as Gorebridge - Tweedbank.

    Above all what's needed is an approach that is both unified and long-term. Some of the current franchisees are not up to this, it would seem.
     
  22. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Since you pose this question, I feel that you should give your view on what the railway industry actually is in your eyes....and the airline industry....and the bus industry...etc etc
     
  23. SPADTrap

    SPADTrap Established Member

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    Which question is that? Not sure what you are asking :)

    What you quoted wasn't a question, apologies if I am being dense.
     
  24. Darren R

    Darren R Established Member

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    You raise an interesting hypothetical question there. Depending on the quality and extent of the information that is in the public domain, it might be relatively simple to calculate. To what extent do TOCs/FOCs and Network Rail publish accounts?
     
  25. Dave1987

    Dave1987 Established Member

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    It comes down to whether or not you see travel in general as a public right. If you see the railways as a public service that can only be because you believe people have the right to travel. If that is the case then surely air travel and road transport should also be seen as a public service. Travel is not a right. The railways were built as a business opportunity in the Victorian era. The difference is now that the government controls the railways and franchises out the operation of them.
     
  26. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I'm neutral over whether public or private is best BUT let's not look at the past through rose tinted specs. British Rail had an awful reputation with the public.

    Look at services that are still in the public sector - they're not exactly a beacon of excellence either.
     
  27. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    I think that be it by bus, train, metro or light rail, travel is a right.

    Good public transport is key to the success of our economy. Why do people with cars struggle to see that so much?

    I agree that private car travel is an unsustainable luxury and air is an unnecessary one within the UK.
     
  28. SPADTrap

    SPADTrap Established Member

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    For the record I had no intention of mentioning/involving BR :lol:
     
  29. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Being somewhat of an interested party in this discussion but only in historical terms, can you inform us what year it was that travel became a right in Britain, looking at the the legal meaning of that word?
     
  30. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    Travel is not a legal right, Paul. I'm rather disappointed in your implication here.
     
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