Why are rail users not consulted as part of the franchising process?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by tom73, 2 Feb 2019.

  1. tom73

    tom73 Member

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    Maybe it's just me, but I believe that around six months prior to a franchise ending on a particular route, those using the route should be formally invited to give feedback about the operator and the service by means of a form distributed among passengers on the operator's trains.
    As things are, it seems to me that those actually using an operator's services have no say whatsoever in whether that operator is given an extension or the procedure progresses to inviting other operators to bid for the franchise.
    The form should have the usual questionnaire on one side with the other side providing definitions of which issues are within the operator's control and which are not.
    Cancellation/delay due to shortage of crew or lack of rolling stock - within the operator's control.
    Cancellation/delay due to fatality/derailment/lines down further along the route - outside the operator's control.
    Contrary to popular belief, an operator does not "arrange" a signal failure simply to wind up passengers. A signal failure is a Network Rail issue outside the control of the train operator.
     
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  3. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    A franchise consultation is undertaken nearly every time the DfT look to award a franchise. It does not necessarily involve the public that much, or have much impact on the award... but it's not nothing.

    A number of things are usually up for grabs in the consultation which will inform the tender.
     
  4. Bertie the bus

    Bertie the bus Established Member

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    You seem to believe that a) the average rail passenger is qualified to pass judgement on a TOC and b) the only people affected are rail passengers. In my opinion neither are in the slightest way true. The average passenger has no idea who is responsible for delaying their journey and will usually blame the TOC regardless, has absolutely no way of determining whether another company would do a better job, and as the railway receives a large public subsidy tax payers should also be considered.
     
  5. pdeaves

    pdeaves Established Member

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  6. 3141

    3141 Established Member

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    Most of the extensions to franchises that have taken place since 2012 have been planned by the DfT (though there have been many modifications to the plan, and many more extensions than they originally envisaged) following the failure of their Intercity West Coast Franchise award. They then had to rearrange their refranchising plans, largely on the basis that they would not undertake more than two refranchising operations each year. Before 2012, they had generally held a refranchising competition before every franchise reached its end date, and any extensions were very short-term.

    If the users of a franchised service could decide whether it should be extended or completely retendered, how many more staff would the DfT need to carry out additional refranchising programmes, and what would be the cost? Not just the cost to the DfT, but also to the bidders, who would have several more franchises to bid for than they have now. As the number of bidders for some recent franchises has been small, there might not even be sufficient bidders to hold a competitive process for some franchises.

    It's certainly the case that, because of the mistakes the DfT made over the ICWC franchise in 2012, some TOCs have continued to run their existing franchises for far longer than they could ever have expected - e.g. Virgin West Coast, GWR and Southeastern - and you may not like a particular operator and the fact that it's received a series of extensions, but your suggestion is simply not practical.
     
  7. HH

    HH Established Member

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    The OP's thesis is flawed at its very heart and therefore the thread is pointless. Indeed, might I suggest that instead of wasting his energy posting in forums he might do better to actually give his opinion during a consultation. If he needs to know what's in an Operator's control, he only has to ask in these forums.
     
  8. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    There is a consultation, but I suspect that DfT probably ignores responses that it considers "inconvenient", or which conflict with what it has already decided what it wants to happen. So, if, for example, it decided that it wants to split Liverpool / Norwich at Nottingham, a lot of adverse comments from passengers would probably be ignored.
     
  9. Fawkes Cat

    Fawkes Cat Member

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    Obviously passengers should be involved. But the timing shouldn't be based on 'so long before the end of franchise' but 'so long before the specification for the new franchise is finalised'. That means that consultation could be both simple, meaningful and practical to implement: maybe 3 questions:

    1) What has worked well for you in the current franchise?
    2) What hasn't worked well?
    3) What would you like to change from now in the next franchise?
     
  10. HH

    HH Established Member

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    This is simplistic.

    It should be clear that individual voices are less likely to be listened to than those who speak for a group, but if enough individuals say the same things then notice will be taken. For instance, Thameslink through trains from the Sutton Loop.
     
  11. HH

    HH Established Member

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    Far too vague. Might as well leave it as it is.
     
  12. mrcheek

    mrcheek Established Member

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    Anybody may make a contribution to discussions on franchise renewal.

    Perhaps the OPs question should be "Why dont they put up posters in stations inviting passengers to make their views known at the appropriate time?"
     
  13. HH

    HH Established Member

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    Now that is sensible. Encouraging feedback would certainly add value. Indeed, they could go further and distribute questionnaires around some of the key areas for the new franchise, e.g. which is more important to you, X or Y?
     
  14. 3141

    3141 Established Member

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    That would have been very useful during the consultation before the specification for the South Western franchise was issued. If they had asked "Which is more important: faster journeys or keeping the same level of service at some of the smaller intermediate stations?", they might not have produced a spec which, when SWR turned it into a draft timetable, led to so much opposition from passengers that SWR had to go back to the DfT and say "Actually, our passengers don't all want the timetable you told us we had to provide".
     
  15. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR Established Member

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    Would not suggestions to the bidders not be more likely to bear fruit? Especially those about parking, waiting facilities, deals with local bus companies to meet trains, new through travel possibilities, comfort, might produce more enterprising bids. One cannot reasonably expect anything 'enterprising' from civil servants, which is why the operation of railway services has been privatised.

    Note the spelling of 'privatised', by the way. No 'i' in the middle, even if that's how you are saying it.
     
  16. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    Problem is:

    A) Many passengers don't really understand the trade off between faster journeys and local connections, they want both!

    B) It's focused on the here and now for current passengers, not what changes might attract future passengers to the railway. E.g. the speed up of many London journeys might produce more demand that is currently not attracted to rail, and so has no voice/awareness to express this.
     
  17. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    I agree, it would become a competition between user pressure groups and their local MPs. The group that shouts the loudest (probably by circulating carefully prepared responses for each of their members to submit as individuals) together with their MPs generating as much self-publicity as possible.
    The other issue is that where shared finite infrastructure capacity is critical to both commuter and inter-city/regional services, the sheer volume of responses from commuters would swamp the view of passengers both long distance and local off-peak.
     
  18. The Box Photter

    The Box Photter Member

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    Any consultation should be meaningful and those groups giving it should find out whether any of their suggestions are taken up as well as why those that aren't were discounted.
     
  19. whhistle

    whhistle On Moderation

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    How would you propose it would work?
    The government sending out questionaires?

    The last time I was involved in a questionaire being sent to peoples homes, many complained what a waste of money it was (despite being told it was actually free to send), or what a waste of paper. Others said they didn't use the railway, so was junk mail to them. A "successful" return was just 10%, and I'm sure the questionaire got around 16% back. That means 84% of people didn't bother - and this was in a small village of no more than 5000 households.

    Plus, you would have to have questions rather than comments as everyone will probably have a slightly different view. Thus the questionaire would be restricted to certain questions.


    People bearly read the large amount of posters around stations anyway, let alone yet another set.
     
  20. James Heck

    James Heck Member

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    And there you have the problem.

    Unfortunately your average passenger is ignorant of the problems and realities of running a railway.
    That's why so many of the public think re-nationalising the railway would be a good idea, when in fact the majority of delays, and many ticket price rises are due to the nationalised DfT, and NetworkRail.

    The likelihood of them giving an accurate answer to a survey, when all a passenger cares about is getting to work on time, is fairly minimal.

    The myriad of tweets from those trying to get back to Islington, from the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last year was hilarious.

    (This wouldn't happen if we re-nationalised the railways, etc.).
     
  21. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    But a consultation isn't asking for accuracy; it's asking for subjective views and experiences. It's up to the people analyzing the information that has been put into the consultation to evaluate the contrasting views that they've been given.

    Opinions given with supporting evidence, by large groups, or by identified experts will rightly be weighed more heavily than comments that lack evidence or which seem to misunderstand responsibilities etc.

    There's no harm in obtaining passengers' views - and the DfT does do this. How much weight the views are given we can't really say of course and I suspect it depends on the team running the consultation too. FWIW I think that offering a 'passenger-friendly' version of the consultation, promoted at stations, is a nice idea, as long as it links through to the 'full' consultation. I though the recent pre-franchise consultation on CrossCountry was a nice example of a well written, clear document that informed or interested passengers could engage with without having to have detailed industry knowledge; a shorter version of this would be the sort of thing I'm thinking of.
     
  22. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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  23. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Are passengers qualified to comment? On what are they basing their comment? Hearsay? gut feel? bias? anger? Have they ever experienced the service offered by the bidding companies to judge which is better? How varied are their experiences of travel by train? Do they know how good the service really is? Do they know how good the service in Birmingham is versus the service in Beltchley?

    Surely the correct input for passengers is in helping to drive the specification that bidders have to meet. Even then it will be very high level and lacking in detail: We want cleaner, warmer, more punctual trains with more seats that run more often.
     
  24. JN114

    JN114 Established Member

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    Asking customers how you should run your business is generally a flawed concept.

    Only those with strong opinions will likely respond; leaving a generally silent and content majority who don’t really want anything to change; or at least don’t care enough to instigate/stop it. So your business then expends it’s efforts pandering to the 5%.
     
  25. James H

    James H Member

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    The public consultation events for the Southeastern franchise process were cancelled as they were scheduled during the last general election campaign and fell foul of 'purdah' rules
     
  26. 12guard4

    12guard4 Member

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    Mainly due to the current franchise system is built aorund creating as much money as possible. Passengers are a total after thought.
     
  27. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    I think you mean minimising the amount of support required by the taxpayer which is a bit different
     
  28. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    To answer the exam question - users are consulted, and their views are taken into account where they have genuine net benefit to passengers. I know of several proposals from users that have resulted in service improvements being specified in franchises.
     
  29. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    agreed in relation to the specification of the franchise but I suspect the OP means the choice of franchise winner.
     
  30. HH

    HH Established Member

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    I don't know why you suspect that, but if true, how would it happen? A Referendum?
     

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