What would services and timetables look like if it was market driven

Discussion in 'Allocations, Diagrams & Timetables' started by gazthomas, 15 Aug 2015.

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  1. gazthomas

    gazthomas Established Member

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    So, if the market drove the timetable what would things look like?

    Who would be the winners?

    Who would be the losers?

    I've often wondered.
     
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  3. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Veteran Member

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    Or do you mean if they were run for the benefit of passengers rather than the DFT Bean Counters
     
  4. gazthomas

    gazthomas Established Member

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    That's a separate debate, my view was if they were left to companies to run. What lines would be lost, which services would be curtailed, which would be increased or even new lines built.

    I would love to know.
     
  5. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    If the taxpayer is contributing, then surely government has a say?
     
  6. Class 170101

    Class 170101 Established Member

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    Technically taxpayers have a say. The givernment is spending our money its not theirs. A few politicans and civil servants would do well to remember that.
     
  7. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    To be correct, the government is committing public funds to the running of the railways. It isn't taxpayers money once it is paid to HMRC. If the railways overspend it doesn't necessarily mean that taxes are increased, it could be that capital or recurring expenditure is reduced elsewhere, e.g. education, housing or even spending on other transport projects. That's especially true of this administration who seem to keep taxation at budget levels whatever happens. Only completely ring-fenced budgets are safe.
    The OP asked what would happen if the railwasy timetables were market driven, i.e. were run purely to satisfy demand as a means of generating profit. That would be abandoning any concept of public or social service and going for the maximum fare returns.
    Heaven help anybody relying on a service that doesn't get high load factors. That would in time skew patronage and eventually the railway would resemble some aspects of that in the US.
     
    Last edited: 15 Aug 2015
  8. higthomas

    higthomas Member

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    My guess is that if the railways were only market driven and had to make a profit to survive, the first thong to happen is that overnight 80% or so of lines would go. I think the only things that would survive would be some London commuter lines, and perhaps a few major intercity lines, but really not that much.

    For info, see the Serpell report. That has some interesting maps of what lines would stay open if this sort of thing were to occur. Although it does make for rather grim reading.
     
  9. Camden

    Camden Established Member

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    If that had happened then today, if we still had railways at all, the intercity trains would be loss making too, with dilapidated rolling stock and running a couple of times a day. You can see parallels of this in countries where they only have a few lines and don't consider the whole connectivity in context of a wider network. A key failing of Beeching was the knock on negative effect of closing some feeder lines.

    Crazy to think it was ever even thought about.
     
  10. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    The answer to the question is that there wouldn't be any trains or railways at all. The search for a profitable core network is futile. The clue is in the word 'network', even those lines that are considered to make money now, which is arguable anyway as much depends on the accounting, will rely on loss making feeder lines for some of their revenue.
     
  11. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    If the question is 'if the railway had no subsidy and was driven entirely by the market, what services would run?

    Then the answer is:

    Most of the London commuter network - with higher peak fares than now (probably considerably more expensive).

    Some intercity routes - London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol, Cardiff, Norwich + Eurostar.

    Maybe some commuter services in Birmingham, Scotland, Leeds, Manchester.

    Err, that's it.


    Also, being completely commercially driven, salaries for those working for the operator would be somewhat lower.
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2015
  12. Camden

    Camden Established Member

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    I think in fairness if you read the above report you'd see that even back there were were additions to those routes mentioned. I doubt Eurostar would make the list given the cost of building and running a tunnel though.

    Also today's services are much more heavily used than back when the above report was produced so I think it would look a lot more susbtantial than that. Funnily enough also you mention commuter networks but omit Liverpools which gets massively used compared than manchester and birminghams, you've also omitted them from the IC routes, but they are in the report as one of the lines that would remain. Argh! I really need to be getting to Liverpool and often why is everyone so keen to write it off lol!

    (Not than I'm suggesting cutting any lines is a good idea!)
     
  13. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Veteran Member

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    But the government would still persist with HS2
     
  14. fowler9

    fowler9 Established Member

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    I think it would be interesting to see what would happen to the country if all the railway routes that don't turn a profit were suddenly closed down and everyone instantly needed to be able to drive and afford to run a car, without a pay rise. I would suggest that the country would fall apart until there was some kind of rebalancing and for a start wages went up or we all move to London.
     
  15. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Fair point about Liverpool. I did consider it, but financially it's a basket case now. But I suppose in a market driven world in Merseyside, fares would go up (a lot), costs would be squeezed (a lot), and I suppose it could wash its face given the passenger numbers. Valley lines similarly.

    Eurostar would work; bear in mind it operates on a market driven commercial basis now. 10 million passengers a year at an average fare over £80 is a healthy income for 70 or so trains a day. The only 'subsidy' it gets is the not-quite-commercial access charges t'other side of the channel.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    In some parts of the country it would be quite disruptive; buses would make a resurgence albeit everyone would have to get used to taking a loooong time to get places. However in some other parts of use country, notably rural areas, you'd barely notice the difference.
     
  16. fowler9

    fowler9 Established Member

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    Of course buses would make a resurgence otherwise everyone would have to live within walking distance of work, a luxury most don't have. It would require a complete shift in the way business is done in the UK involving a major shift of business away from London and other city centres.

    I'm sorry but in order to live in that kind of society companies are going to have to start paying their staff the going rate for what it costs to live in that world, they won't like it.
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2015
  17. Camden

    Camden Established Member

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    On what basis do you call Liverpool a basket case? Reason for asking is that one another forum there is a debate about a second Liverpool train an hour on basis that its one train an hour is more heavily used than Manchester's three (personal observation from weekly use of both and cost difference). With one train an hour and more people using that one per hour than using each of Manchester's three, and at higher cost per passenger, sure that would mark Liverpool out as one of the more profitable IC routes and all of the IC routes as basket cases??

    On Eurostar what you are overlooking is the massive capital cost of digging that 30 odd mile tunnel and looking after that international capable infrastructure. If you're talking a commercial only railway, it would take one massive undeniable business case for any company to take the risk of building it. It would never have been built. No tunnel no trains.
     
  18. Philip C

    Philip C Member

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    I share the view about survival of some Liverpool suburban services. The lines from the Wirral have a geographical advantage that might well sustain them, whilst the Southport Line is well placed through a lengthy string of communities. The Ormskirk, Kirkby and Hunt's Cross third rail sections are less strongly placed (but would benefit if the Southport Line justified the core section); much of the suburban sections out of Lime Street would be at risk. As for longer distance services the city would surely have enough traffic to justify some connection(s?) with the West Coast Main Line and possibly a single route to Manchester and the West Riding. Any surviving inter-urban line might well economically support a limited local service at the margin.

    Manchester and Birmingham may be better placed for retention of multiple inter-urban lines but their more local lines lack the geographical advantage of the Wirral Lines and might not fare so well. The Manchester model of suburban rail transferring to the, presumably, more cost effective tram mode might suggest a way forward for some threatened corridors.

    But it won't happen for a very long time.
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2015
  19. Camden

    Camden Established Member

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    If you search online for the report mentioned there is a PDF. As rail use was depressed back then you can kind of make some educated guesses as to the improved viability of various lines in the drastic commercial only case (discarding any extra expense that has been lumbered on our railways shoulders by privatisation).

    Anyway surely we're not actually really talking about lines being threatened with closure? Aren't Manchester's conversions to tram more driven by place building than 'dumbing down' anyway? Improving rather than cheapening.
     
  20. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    I meant Merseyrail, rather than the Liverpool - London service.

    Re the tunnel, let's not forget it was funded, financed and constructed purely as a commercial undertaking. And it still is, albeit it's had some fun and games with the banks along the way. However now it is a fully commercial proposition, and carries 4million vehicles a year on the shuttles, a rather useful income.
     
  21. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    If Serpell's most draconian option had been implemented back in the 1980's it would have been around 1992 that what was left would also be closed, since the lines that might have covered their costs in 1983 would no longer have done so ten years later.
     
  22. Philip C

    Philip C Member

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    I'm not sure that that would have been true, but I draw no comfort from it.

    My view is that many lines might be able to cover their immediate costs and continue in existence pro tem. However sooner or later a big expenditure will arise (rolling stock will need replacing, a sea wall will collapse, signal wiring will rot - there are lots of options) and then commercially there needs to be a profitable business case for the investment. At that point the network would be subject to contraction. Living off sunk investment from the past is easy, putting hands in current pockets in the hope of future net income streams is another matter. Our first generation tramways often ticked along until re-equipment (new tramcars, rewiring) brought them to their end (a bit of a generalisation, I know).

    My contention is that a purely commercial railway might tick along without major loss of network until major unavoidable cost issues arise. At those points contraction would be likely to occur. Whilst the weather was playing its game at Dawlish, the Hastings Line was also suffering from major landslip traumas that, under purely commercial criteria, could have been its nemesis.
     
  23. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Merseyrail does receive a heavy subsidy, but as the broadly similar in scope (give or take the costs of maintaining the underground bit) Metrolink does run without operating subsidy, I would imagine some heavy cost cutting (destaff all stations except underground ones which would be minimally staffed per legal requirement, all trains DOO) and fare increasing could make it pay to at least some extent.
     
  24. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    There would be a few winners - these would be cities/towns which see faster services as smaller intermediate stations are closed. The losers would be everywhere else.

    There may be some increase in coach services but unlikely to be significant. Might develop a short/medium distance bus/coach commuter service in some cities but unless significant bus priority was provided it would struggle

    London commuter services would broadly survive with perhaps 5-10% of stations closing but the withdrawal of many late evening and Sunday morning services. Fares would increase markedly in the peak which would on the upside lead to less congested trains.

    London Intercity services would broadly survive as now except peripheral services would go - ie nothing west of Plymouth or Swansea, again some off-peak trains would go.

    Some regional city centre to city centre services would probably survive - eg transpennine as would some Cross country eg Leeds-Birmingham-Bristol. Fares would probably rise and services would tend to operate between around 06.00-22.00 only.

    The rest of the network would go.
     
  25. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I'll add - through ticketing would probably disappear, and InterCity ticketing would be compulsory reservation and much more heavily yield managed[1] like airlines.

    [1] For instance, Friday evening and Sunday afternoon-evening would be priced far more like morning peaks, I would expect.
     
  26. backontrack

    backontrack Established Member

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    The Serpell Report would have meant the loss of both the TransPennine line and the MML (as well as Derby-Birmingham-Bristol and both Woodhead and Hope Valley) if Option A, the most severe of the lot, was given the go-ahead.
     
  27. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    With loss of many local services could result in more genuine on rail competition on almost all surviving routes
     
  28. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    This would depend on the structure of the industry. Arguably just flogging the lot to one company would make things more profitable (by cutting costs at company interfaces and allowing fare increases) and increase the chances of more of the network surviving.
     
  29. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    The "Big 4" companies pre 1948 were a bit slack with timetable offers - but did provide socially neccessary services for things like markets ,late evening "booze" trains on weekends (say in the South Wales Valleys where they were known as "Rodneys" and specials to the seaside etc.- which probably made little money - but was all part of the then "social" railway. BR did much the same.

    As far back as 1990 I recall mulling this over BR mates - and we all agreed that without protection - some lines even in the South East - think Greenford / Epsom Downs - Sutton and even Chessington would be candidates for even closure or minimal serving. Much though many here do not like the DfT or OPRAF / SRA - it has protected many services through Service Level agreements and even capacity into termini where minimum numbers of cars are guaranteed. (often not enough I agree)

    A pure economic driven TT would have much less than now - and certainly not in many places and at times taken for granted now.
     
  30. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    Fair point, I was assuming you would still have a separate infrastructure company and TOCs as the skills required to operate them are different, thinking airlines and coach companies.
     
  31. Camden

    Camden Established Member

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    Don't think you can call Merseyrail a basket case either tbf, it carries more passengers across its two lines than many northern cities put together... what it is perhaps burdened with are costs that are too high and that needs addressing. Part of the problem is rolling stock, another may be staffing and another that in this country we're good at starting things and not so good at finishing them. The lines to Hunts Cross and Kirkby, two bits of line which see lower use the others are all good, were never meant to stop there. Noting the suburban services were spoken about above too I was shown an interesting slide the other week that showed Merseyside having 90 million passenger journeys inside its area each year against 50-odd million passenger journey inside the whole of Greater Manchester, with OR cited, so that's a fair amount of use of those rubbishy clapped out lines out of Lime Street station too. You're looking at the whole of britain's cities not having local railway networks if you write that one off. I second what Neil has said on this.

    All in all I and going back to my original point I think you can take that report and grow it significantly based on the higher levels of use the rail network in britain gets nowadays, but on euro tunnel I maintain in a country where rail is run purely commercially it defies logic that this would have been able to raise any finance without the backing of governments who have been heavily involved in the construction and operation of the euro tunnel... just wouldn't happen. A bit like railway networks around cities, it just jars with the whole concept. You don't have a run down reluctant and sparse network of ever dwindling trains and then have a top of the line second to none service to Europe through a multi billion tunnel. Just wouldn't have happened. If nothing else just picture Waterloo, as that is where it would still be going to with no justification to get it to St Pancras, a comparable ghost town station versus today with far fewer services...and then euro star alongside that?? No chance.
     
    Last edited: 19 Aug 2015
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