Posts Tagged ‘trains’
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.
As we all know, the price of train tickets has been leaping wildly upward for too long, with some going up by double in ten years. And are our trains running more efficiently and all shiny and new? Arse they are.
And so, ministers – far too late to the party, as usual – are saying that future price hikes could be scrapped. Rail minister Norman Baker said he wanted to stop further increases, but showed typical insensitivity by saying that current fares were ‘not nearly as expensive as is being presented’.
Tell that to those who have seen tickets going up by almost 90% and everyone else who has noticed that fares have outstripped salary rises.
Baker said: ‘We want to end the era of above-inflation rises as soon as we possibly can, and we’re working towards that. I’m engaged in the fares and ticketing review… which will aim to make fares more transparent and simpler for the passenger. I think in an ideal world we wouldn’t be having fare increases above inflation.’
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport said: “The impact of successive Government’s policies on rail fares is appalling. It’s truly shocking that we have deliberately made getting the train to work an extravagance that many struggle to afford. The time has come not just to stop the rises but to reduce fares.”
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said: “We understand commuters don’t like to pay more to travel to work but it is the government, not train companies, that decides how much season tickets should rise on average each year. Successive governments have required train companies to increase the average price of season tickets every January since 2004 by more than inflation. Ministers want passengers to pay a larger share of railway running costs to reduce the contribution from taxpayers while sustaining investment in better stations, new trains and faster services.”
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport union, spits: “Passengers getting another inflation-busting kick in the teeth know that their hard-earned cash is being bled out of the railways and into the pockets of a bunch of spivs and chancers.”
Virgin Rail are going to be running the west coast mainline for a further 23 months, say the government who haven’t ballsed up the admin of our railways AT ALL this year.
Richard Branson’s firm will run the London to Glasgow trains ’til 9th November 2014, rather than that whole pig’s ear that the transport secretary sorted when FirstGroup was awarded the line in October.
Basically, Virgin will have the service while the government works out another long-term franchise to be awarded.
Transport Sec, Patrick McLoughlin said: “We are determined to ensure not only that passengers continue to experience the same levels of service they have in the past, but that services improve. There will be a new hourly service linking Glasgow and London and we will also work with Virgin Trains to explore other service improvements.”
He continued: “I am also extremely pleased that passengers will benefit from up to 28,000 more seats daily thanks to the delivery of 106 new Pendolino carriages on to the west coast line, which has happened on budget and ahead of schedule.”
Of course, all anyone can hear is the hoohah surrounding the FirstGroup big, which Branson called “insane” and resulted in three DfT officials getting suspended and everyone losing all faith in the way things are run. There’s also going to be an independent report into this fiasco.
The network coverage on train journeys can be pretty grim. And so, a train operator is teaming up with a mobile phone company to improve coverage for passengers. If this works, surely it’ll be rolled out nationally?
East Midlands Trains is working with Vodafone to improve the mobile phone signal on its carriages and equipment is being installed on 27 Meridian trains that operate on the Midland Main Line (the route between Sheffield and London) which will hopefully strengthen and improve the mobile phone signal.
The first phase of the project has seen East Midlands Trains engineers installing mobile phone signal boosters to six of its seven-carriage Meridian trains.
Managing director David Horne said the company’s entire Meridian fleet would be enhanced early next year.
The West Coast rail saga has been a monumental balls-up, leaving the government looking like dunderhead know-nowts. And so, while they try and find someone else to blame or at least a decent cover story, they’ve handed the control of the route to Virgin who can look after things for at least nine months.
Patrick McLoughlin, secretary of state for transport, will make an announcement later today to the House of Commons with more on what caused so much chaos on the line that was initially awarded to FirstGroup before the inevitable cock-up.
McLoughlin said: “The cancellation of the InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise is deeply regrettable and I apologise to the bidders involved and the taxpayer who have a right to expect better.
“My priority now is to fix the problem and the first step is to take urgent action to ensure that on the 9 December services continue to run to the same standard and passengers are not affected. I believe Virgin remaining as operator for a short period of time is the best way to do this and my officials and I will be working flat out to make this happen.”
If only someone had worked ‘flat out’ in the first place, to save everyone all this nonsense.
Meanwhile, in a statement, FirstGroup say: ”We believe the private sector provides the most effective and efficient way to deliver passenger rail services in the UK. We await the outcome of the independent investigations into the ICWC franchise competition and the wider rail franchising process, which we hope will provide a greater degree of certainty and confidence not only to future bidders, but to employees, stakeholders and the travelling public too. ”
Meanwhile, the unions are furious (as usual) saying that this is all an ‘ideological stitch-up’, with RMT’s Bob Crow saying that “the government are ideologically opposed to public ownership of the railways and, in collusion with the private train operators, have stitched up a shabby deal that will enable them to rerun the whole franchise fiasco in a years time.”
Hey! Drivers! Paying too much for your car? The insurance and fuel prices making you a constant knot of despair and anger? Is the tax hammering you into the ground leaving you wanting to mow down every single human you come across?
Say hello to road tolls.
According to the CBI, the way roads are paid for is in need of overhaul, which basically translates into the introduction of “user charges”, or, you paying-as-you-go on the roads.
Now, with this in mind, drivers will be rightly angry because of the £48.2 billion pot of motoring tax, only £10 billion of that is actually put back into improving and maintaining our grotty road network. Thanks to cars being more fuel-efficient, you’ve finally started saving a bit of money, but alas, the powers that be have noticed and want to penalise you because the amount raised in tax from drivers is on the decline.
And so, the CBI are offering a ‘solution’ which will see private companies taking the responsibility for running major roads and motorways. In return for their making our roads sparkly and news (and invariably covered in sponsorship), they’ll recoup money from tolls. And the government LOVE this idea, with both Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, and Tory backbenchers clapping furiously at the notion.
“Every day, people up and down the UK lose time and money because of our clogged-up roads,” says John Cridland, the CBI’s director general. “Whether you’re a business waiting for an urgent delivery, or a commuter stuck in the morning rush-hour, gridlock is an all too familiar tale of life in the UK. With public spending checked, the case for new funding solutions is even more compelling, and the Government recognises this. Infrastructure matters to business, and delivering upgrades to our networks is one of the highest priorities for the CBI to get the economy moving again.”
And train fares look like they’ll be increasing too. Basically, if you ever want to leave the house to work or anything else, you’re screwed.
The government has announced that the West Coast main line deal, which was won by FirstGroup back in August, is to be scrapped, with the bidding process set to start all over again. Rotten news for FirstGroup, but great news for Virgin Trains, which lost out in the process.
It is being reported that civil servants have found significant mistakes in the way that the risks for each bid were calculated and that the whole thing will have to be re-run. Virgin challenged the original decision in court and Sir Richard Branson appeared on TV a few times live from his hot, posh island, gaining the sympathy of almost nobody.
EDIT: It has been revealed that the cost to the taxpayer for cleaning up this cock-up will be £40 million. Nice.
Who says Government is in bed with business? The tale of the Transport Minister and the Train company…September 21st, 2012 • 7 Comments
Good old British Rail eh? It had its problems, but at least it was an institution. Now, of course, we have the current franchise system, the same one that has poor old Richard Branson with his knickers in a twist after his Virgin trains lost the West Coast mainline franchise earlier this year.
But tenders are not the only opportunity for Government to show who their friends are- and whose interests they serve- is it those of the shareholders of train franchise companies or the millions of passengers and rail workers in the country. Take London Midland as an example.
London Midland currently holds the franchise for rail travel, well, in the Midlands and London. It operates local services in the West Midlands and services between London and Liverpool. It is owned by Govia, which is part of the Go Ahead group, which also runs the Southern and South Eastern rail franchises, as well as bus services.
Recently, London Midland decided it wanted to close some stations completely and reduce staffed opening hours on 79 stations in the West Midlands. Under the terms of its franchise, it can do this, if passengers agree. They did not. Passenger Focus had over 18,000 complaints against the proposals (and one for them). Again, according to the franchise agreement, London Midland had to take their plans to the Department for Transport as arbitrator.
Now, the DfT is supposed to consider the case and decide whether to allow or deny the proposal depending on whether “the change improves current arrangements in terms of quality of service and/or cost effectiveness, and whether members of the public would still enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products” (Bitterwallet emphasis). Additionally “the needs of the elderly and disabled would have to be carefully considered, including options for access to ‘assisted purchase’ channels for those who may find it particularly difficult to use a ticket machine or to buy their ticket online.”
One would assume that it would be hard to argue that closing stations or removing staff would improve quality of service. Although London Midland have agreed to insert ticket machines, surely this does not really consider the needs of those who can’t use one. So the fact that the DfT approved the proposals, despite widespread petitions and demonstration, suggests that cost-effectiveness was paramount. But cost-effective for whom?
It is not likely to be cost-effective for customers, after all, train companies are permitted to increase fares above inflation every year and they are more likely to accidentally buy a more expensive ticket than is necessary from a machine than where there is a station officer to guide them.
This will not be cost-effective for the Government- the amount of annual stipend London Midland will receive was agreed years in advance, and the Government does not get money back now that less service is being provided.
So the reason must be that it is cost effective for the train company that jointly made a £40million operating profit on its railway franchises in the 12 months to June 2012 to close down stations and lay off staff. The same franchise that is described in its annual report as “the only franchise of its time not to be in receipt of revenue support”. We presume this means “the one making the most money”.
Understandably there are lots of people who think this isn’t on. TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes said:
“Mr Baker [the Transport Minister] has some cheek to spin these closures as being in the interests of passengers. It is simply not good enough to say passengers can use a ticket vending machine when the ticket office is shut”
“Families, the elderly, disabled and young should not be left to fend for themselves in the evenings and at weekends. There is also the question of security with passengers returning home later in the evenings to unstaffed stations.”
He went on, possibly slightly angrily: “Mr Baker makes further capital from the fact that not all the ticket offices proposed for closure are being closed with some facing reduced opening hours instead. This only reflects the faustian bargain which his government has done with private train operators whereby the train operators apply to close twice as many ticket offices as they plan to and the government gets to claim credit for reducing the number.” All the 5 stations saved from closure have instead been given opening times of around 2 hours a day, weekdays only.
Centro chairman Coun John McNicholas (Lab Coventry Lower Stoke) told The Birmingham Post “London Midland recently said that reducing staff will not save them any money [as they would have to install ticket machines]. If that is the case we fail to see why they did not listen to the 18,000 passengers and disabled groups who objected.” Documents leaked by the RMT suggested the jobs lost would save London Midland £1.2m a year.
“We also fail to see what possible benefits there are to London Midland, the Department for Transport, or, most importantly, the passengers in driving through these changes” he finished.
But why do you care? Unless you are served by a London Midland train, you probably aren’t concerned about the stations, or the station staff who will lose their jobs. But maybe you should be- since 2010 the Department for Transport has agreed every single one of the 113 requests to reduce the opening hours of stations, with no corresponding reduction in the £millions of stipends paid to the seven franchise operators who are now offering a poorer service.
We asked London Midland for a comment, but considering they ignored 18,000 people, rail and transport unions, employees, passengers and MPs, we weren’t expecting an answer. Miraculously, however, we did get one. Specifically we asked them how they could think about reducing staff numbers when today’s service was disrupted “owing to a member of train crew being unavailable”. Considering this single member of staff led to (at least) 18 services being cut short of otherwise disrupted and 12 services being cancelled altogether, we think this must be a fairly important member of staff. Either that, or the London Midland employees are making a point. They said they were “temporarily short of traincrew, which is a result of a vacancy gap. We have recruited a substantial number of new members, and will continue to do so, but this takes some time while they are under training.” We wouldn’t like to suggest they weren’t being truthful, but it is amazing that this one instance of temporary short-staffedness has such a massive effect on so many train services on one single day, and no other. They also claimed they did not know how many people would lose their jobs as a result of the DfT decision. Guess they must have just plucked that £1.2m staff savings figure out of the air then.
Still, perhaps all this fuss, and the disgruntledness of consumers, might make the Government think again when Govia go for the Thameslink franchise next month. But then again, maybe not. It’s not what you know…