Posts Tagged ‘trains’
The Government have announced that they’re curbing train operators’ ability to increase ticket prices in 2014. Thus far, rail companies have been able to slap on an additional 5% to fares, provided the average rise of regulated fares is maintained at 1% above inflation. However, that will now be limited to 2%.
It isn’t a decrease, but it is better than a kick in the arse.
The rise in the new year will be based on the July 2013 RPI inflation rate, which means the old flexible system has gone, and thereby ending tickets going up by eye-watering amounts (some season tickets could have gone up by nearly 10% under the old rules).
This review was published today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who said: ”By capping fares we are protecting passengers from large rises at a time when family incomes are already being squeezed. We will need to wait for the rail industry to calculate individual ticket prices for next year, but this cap could save some commuters as much as £200 a year.”
The review also looks at a potential end to paper tickets, flexible season tickets and a code of conduct for train companies in the hope that they’ll actually give passengers some confidence that they are getting the best deal for their journey.
McLoughlin added: “Today is just the start of a Government-wide programme to help hardworking people and reduce the cost of living. The Government will be announcing a range of initiatives to help put money back in people’s pockets over the next few weeks. Alongside this, the Government is investing over £16bn to transform our rail network, which will make sure we can respond to increasing passenger demand and drive forward economic growth that will help strengthen our economy.”
These new ‘flexible’ cards will be trialled next year, according to Rail Minister Norman Baker.
This is particularly good news for part-time workers who will no longer have to pay for a five day service when they’re working less. In addition to this, the scheme may also include discounted tickets for those travelling in quieter periods of rush hours (the ‘shoulder period’).
Baker said: “Millions of people no longer work traditional 9 to 5. Flexible ticketing must reflect that. It will give passengers a better deal by reducing the money they spend on fares and will spread demand across the network by encouraging them to take less busy services”.
“Under this pilot we will look at how we can give them a better deal and also reward those commuters who avoid the busiest rush hour services.”
Alan Chittock, who works for Southend Central Rail Station, saved a disabled woman from train tracks shortly before a train was due to arrive, which makes him a bit of a hero right? Wrong. His bosses think quite the opposite and have suspended him for ‘breaching safety rules’.
Chittock’s employer, C2C, said he’d not followed the correct procedures for an incident of this nature and a spokesman said: “We have strict rules regarding the safety procedure for the quickest way of stopping trains in an emergency. An employee has been suspended while our investigation into this incident continues.”
Chittock’s sister told the Mirror that he was “upset” and had been told not to say anything until the investigation concludes.
RMT union general secretary Bob Crow said: “Clearly it is a travesty of justice that a member of staff has ended up threatened with disciplinary action for helping avoid a potential tragedy at Southend and RMT is calling on the company to recognise the strength of feeling this case has generated amongst both staff and the public.”
“RMT is representing our member and will do all that we can to ensure that he is returned to work as soon as possible with no stain on his record and a recognition that station-based rail staff play a crucial role in ensuring public safety.”
Former chancellor, Alistair Darling, reckons that spending £70 billion on one railway line could well have “catastrophic” consequences for the rest of the network and that he doesn’t support the HS2 project because it seems “foolish”.
If you can’t remember the news, the Government are planning on having trains travelling between 8 out of Britain’s 10 largest cities, travelling at speeds of 225mph.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Darling warned that if HS2 goes ahead, there will be no money for “maintaining and upgrading existing lines.” He said: “What has changed my mind is principally the cost because it’s gone from £30billion to £50billion and recent reports suggest it might even be as high as £70billion.”
“My principal concern is that if you spend this money on this one railway line then we will not have the money on maintaining and upgrading existing lines, such as the East Coast line, the line to Bristol, the commuter lines and so on and my experience as Transport Secretary is if you do not spend money on upgrading and improving the track and the trains, then eventually things will start falling apart, as they did in the mid 1990s. And that would be catastrophic.”
“We’re spending a lot of money on something that still isn’t finalised and I’ll also question whether or not we’ll get the gains claimed for it.”
Apparently, there were just under 500 people on the Penzance to Paddington service when it stalled near Pewsey, Wiltshire, with passengers complaining that they were being ‘treated like cattle’ and that the journey was ‘horrific’.
The train was at a standstill for five hours and 40 minutes, meaning that people who should’ve been home for their tea didn’t get in until 10.15pm.
A passenger told the BBC: “They ran out of food pretty quickly. They ran out of food the first or second hour into the breakdown and then water – I think they were giving out water to children and the elderly but that was about it.”
Another grumbler added: “The train was overcrowded before it even broke down. There was probably 20 or 30 people in each carriage who couldn’t sit down.”
First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said there was “no doubt it wasn’t a good experience in any shape or form last night. Clearly what I need to do is say sorry. We are sorry. We need to investigate what’s gone on and we need to learn some lessons quickly from this. It took a lot longer to find the fault than we wanted.”
He added that everyone affected would get a refund and “appropriate compensation”.
Network Rail have put out a video which shows how dangerous train stations can be when you’ve had too much to drink. In places, it is rather funny, which diminishes the message somewhat.
This new safety campaign wants to highlight that more than 1,600 people have been hurt in Network Rail stations in the past year, with many of them caused by dirty booze.
You can watch a man in a kilt fail to kick a pigeon and a hilarious fella have an awful time with an escalator.
British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther said: “Somewhat inevitably, drinking alcohol can impair people’s judgment and co-ordination.”
“Encouraging passengers to be more aware of their surroundings, particularly when they have had a drink, and to be alert to the inherent dangers that exist in stations will, we hope, reduce avoidable slips and falls across the network.”
So don’t die. And be funny while you do it.
‘Leaves on the line’ is no more – this summer’s sizzling new excuse for you to be stuck in a boiling tin can just outside the station is…’IT’S TOO HOT.’
The recent heatwave, which in most places is just called ‘summer’, has brought South West trains at Waterloo to a standstill as the heat is warping the metal tracks, and our olde Victorian railway just can’t cope with the high temperatures.
At Waterloo, speed limits were yesterday reduced to 20mph between 12pm and 6pm as a precautionary measure. As a result, the general public slowly harrumphed their way home, beleaguering Twitter with comments like ‘it’s not the Sahara desert’ and ‘this is an absolute joke.’
Train companies had already prepared for the hot weather by artificially putting stress on the rails so the metal could cope with the heat. But, as a South West trains spokesman explained: ‘The ageing condition of our infrastructure has meant that despite the preparation work that has taken place, we have had to impose speed restrictions.’
Ok, fair enough. But how about ‘imposing’ air conditioning and free Margaritas, too?
Rail bosses have been ordered to slash the costs of running Britain’s railways by £2 billion as well as sorting train punctuality. The railways regulator - Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) - told Network Rail that the gap between the best and worst performing routes in Britain were far too wide and that more than nine out of 10 trains must run on time from now on.
Among the worst performers are First Capital Connect and First Great Western who, naturally, are run by the beleaguered First Group.
If targets are continually missed, Network Rail will be hit with fines of £75 million this year.
ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “The industry must continue to improve its efficiency to reduce its dependence on public subsidy. Passengers will benefit from increases in capacity through a major programme of enhancements and improvements in punctuality, tackling in particular the worst-performing lines.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus said: “Passengers will judge it when the trains turn up on time.”
“In England and Wales we’ve had years of above-inflation fare rises that have led to money being poured into the rail industry. In return for that passengers expect the basics of a good service.”
Well of course railcards cost you money- you have to buy them in the first place. However, most people purchase a railcard because they believe they will save money by dint of cheaper fares if they do so. A fair assumption to make given the concept of railcards. However, it has come to our money-saving attention that using a railcard in certain situations could actually end up costing almost twice as much as it should do.
Imagine you live in Birmingham. It’s lovely and full of friendly, regionally accented people. There are great shops and at least one quite good football team. Everyone’s happy. Say you have to leave lovely Birmingham and go to that London. You might buy a train ticket to whisk you from Birmingham New Street to London Euston in a mere hour and some change. Good job we’ve got HS2 coming to speed things up around here.
Anyway, say you don’t actually live at New Street station, and so have to get a connecting train in. A connecting train that costs, say, £6.75 return for an adult and a child. You might think it would be easier and less hassle to just buy your connecting ticket at the same time as your expensive trip to London. Sometimes it even costs the same, saving savvy travellers that £6.75.
If we don’t have a railcard, the sums are easy. Without a railcard, the cost of the connected journey on a weekday morning (next week) for one adult and one child is £132. Without the connecting train in, the cost falls to £125.25. You haven’t saved the cost of your connecting train in, but you are only paying £6.75 extra- the cost of the two connecting train tickets.
Now add a railcard. The fare is considerably cheaper, with the full journey costing £74.80. That’s a saving of 44%. That’s even better than the advertised third off. Great money saving.
However, if you remove the connecting train, the price for one adult and one child from Birmingham New Street to London, on the exact same trains is only £37.80. That’s £37 cheaper. Even if you deduct the cost of paying for the connecting train separately, that’s still a £30.25 additional saving. The journey from Birmingham to London now costs just 30% of the standard advance price. Now that is a great saving, and at the ‘cost’ of the hassle of buying a connecting ticket at the local station.
Of course, advance tickets (even 1 day advance) are normally cheaper than standard on-the-day fares, and you can book online (from a website that doesn’t charge card or booking fees) and claim cashback too.
While we have heard of split journey pricing before (i.e buying a ticket from Birmingham to Milton Keynes, and then one from Milton Keynes to London), we have not come across this type of penalty pricing for connecting trains before. The images are taken from Virgin Trains website, but the same prices show up on any ticket comparison site. Definitely worth knowing.
The cost of Britain’s railways fell by 2.1%, even though inflation pushed the network’s expenses up by 2.9%. Passengers were spending 8.7% more, which means that us idiots are contributing 58% of running costs through fares according to the Office of Rail Regulation.
The government chipped in £4bn (32%) and infrastructure spending fell 1.8% while Network Rail threw £1.5bn around to maintain their £28bn debts.
ORR statistics show that rail subsidies aren’t evenly spread throughout the country, with the East Coast the least subsidised.
Routes in mostly rural areas such as the Northern franchise, or those subject to major upgrade work like the London Overground, required up to 69% of their costs to be met by the state.
All in all, it is shit catching trains.
Microsoft have teamed-up with The Cloud to offer unlimited free WiFi at a number of railway stations across the UK, which will hopefully lower a few mobile and tablet bills.
There’ll be no restrictions on how much data you transfer and you’ll be able to surf for as long as you please, which is a huge improvement on the cruddy services which ask for payment details or give you 15 minute slots.
Basically, The Cloud are able to remove time limits because the non-restricted service is being sponsored by Microsoft as they try and push Office 365.
“This campaign is designed to help commuters tap into new ways of working. The mobile workforce is constantly growing and, as such, so is the need to access mobile internet,” says Phillipa Snare, chief marketing officer at Microsoft’s UK division. “Having free WiFi available is key to this because it enables people to get online quickly and easily as they travel. Simply put, our aim in sponsoring unlimited free Wi-Fi is to ensure users are able to work from anywhere – in the office, at home and in between.”
There’s no word on which stations will be getting this service as yet, other than it will cover “selected Network Rail stations.”
Vince Russell, The Cloud’s managing director, said “In sponsoring free WiFi at these stations, Microsoft is supporting the modern, mobile worker and ultimately helping boost productivity in UK businesses.”
Download things from torrents at train stations and see how many letters they get telling them off for misuse.
According to consumer group Which? only 22% of the 7,500 passengers in its survey thought their service was improving. And despite almost being canned last year, the most popular rail company was Virgin Trains with 67% satisfaction.
But last month a larger survey by Passenger Focus put the number of SATISFIED rail passengers at a record high of 85%. Thoughts, opinion makers?
Predictably RMT leader Bob Crow called the private rail companies ‘basket cases’ and said was high time private rail companies were booted off the railways to make way for publicly owned trains serving bloody good British publicly owned sandwiches.
Shadow transport secretary Maria “Bald” Eagle added: “While taxpayers continue to fund the rail industry to the tune of £3.5bn every year, rail companies must do better and the government needs to hold them to account on behalf of passengers and taxpayers.”
But wait a minute – are we actually satisfied or not? Are we just making stuff up in surveys while drinking weak train coffee and wishing for death? And why am I stranded at Carlisle station at midnight?
The Government, at the cost of £50m to the taxpayer, pulled the contract for the West Coast Main Line and the Department for Transport have awarded an extension to FirstGroup, who currently run the line.
The failure of the Great Western franchise competition was highly publicised and those who put bids in were furious at the whole debacle. And guess what? Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, has gleefully pointed out that no-one will be getting any compensation from it all.
“In keeping with the relevant invitations to tender, which made clear that bidders are responsible for their own costs, the Secretary of State does not believe it would be appropriate to reimburse bidders,” he said in a statement. FirstGroup, National Express, Stagecoach, and Arriva, big companies that incurred costs bidding on the whole thing, will be furious.
First Group, meanwhile, will be running things for the foreseeable future, leaving out-of-pocket bidders and the taxpayer to go whistle. Let us not forget that FirstGroup was announced the winner of the West Coast franchise in August, only to be denied it two months later following the government’s discovery of “significant technical flaws” in the way the process was undertook. The fact there’s nine major contracts due to expire in 2014, it is fair to say that confidence in the government’s ability to deal with it is low.
McLoughlin said: “These plans mark an important step on the way to restarting the franchising programme, and while I am determined this should happen as quickly as possible we do need time to get this right. We have had to take some tough decisions regarding franchising, and while they may provide a challenge in the short term, I believe the lessons we have learnt will help deliver a more robust system in the future benefiting fare-payers and taxpayers alike.”
“As always our priority is to ensure these changes will not impact on services or our commitment to improving the railways. Our latest step towards delivering a high-speed rail network which will link many of our major cities by a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains is testament to how we are delivering on that commitment.”
Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The day the lid was lifted on the sordid fiasco on the West Coast the Government are at it again, doling out lucrative two-year contract extensions around the country with directly operated railways on hand to sweep up the mess if it all falls apart. The lies, deceit and racketeering of rail privatisation has to be called to a halt now.”
According to the National Passenger Survey, the number of satisfied train passengers is at a record high. Can you believe that? The same Passenger Focus survey also points out that fewer than half of people think ticket prices are worth the money.
Of more than 31,000 travellers spoken to, 85% were very satisfied with rail travel. These people obviously don’t end up on the hot, expensive, crowded and late trains the rest of us catch.
47% were satisfied with their ticket’s value for money, which remarkably, is up from 46% the year before.
Anthony Smith, chief executive officer for Passenger Focus, said that while “things are moving in the right direction” more needed to be done to improve rail services. There are some trains that are very crowded, there are some routes that are very crowded that are desperately crying out for more investment in terms of more trains and longer trains.”
“Quite a bit of that is in the pipeline and it will come at some point in the future. This is an average picture, it doesn’t reflect every single passenger’s experience but I think it does show the industry is starting to broadly move in the right direction.”
He continued: “We’ve had years now of above-inflation fare rises. We’ve now got a government promise to row these fare rises back so that they’re pegged at inflation only. The sooner that promise becomes a reality the better.”
The lowest ratings for overall satisfaction were given to Northern Rail, First Capital Connect and Southern while the highest satisfaction scores were landed by Grand Central, First Hull Trains and Heathrow Connect.
From 2000 onward, rail users have seen season tickets going up by £1,300, train fares rising 20% faster than our wages and an increasingly shoddy service. In short, there is very little confidence in the trains, which means that there’ll be just cynicism about the £37.5bn plan to develop the UK’s railway infrastructure over five years by Network Rail.
The plan is that, up until 2019, we’ll start seeing quicker journeys, 170,000 more peak-time commuter seats and better reliability. Nothing about cheaper fares there, you’ll note.
There are plans to spend £600m on protecting tracks and bridges against floods and the adding of 1,000 miles of new electrified lines. £5bn will be spend on the network from London to Swansea, as well as congested areas like Reading and Greater Manchester.
Network Rail chief executive David Higgins told the BBC: “We have an amazing railway which is performing out of its socks, but it is still an old, Victorian railway which costs money to maintain because it is old and at a very, very high level of capacity, so getting access to the railway is really difficult.
“But we have made huge progress. The costs of maintaining and operating the railway in the 10-year period to 2014 have come down by 50%. We have to invest to save. We have to spend now to increase capacity, create a more resilient railway.”
These plans will inevitably mean that fares are going to rise further, beyond inflation, which means that these improvement won’t be enjoyed by the maximum number of people, who are increasingly being priced out of rail travel.