Trains in the UK

Alexia
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Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 20.57

Oh I dunno -- I reckon paying a quid to go from Cardiff - London on a coach in 3 hours is pretty good.
Chris
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Location: Surrey

Sun 08 Jan, 2012 03.57

Oh I dunno -- I reckon paying a quid to go from Cardiff - London on a coach in 3 hours is pretty good.
I don't know whether you were being facetious Alexia but certainly the £1 seats will be sold at a loss.

Peak time fares are rather ridiculous - all very well trying to encourage people to travel off peak but for most there's no say in the matter. A peak time ticket and travelcard from where I am is pushing close to £20 (you will get 20p change!), which is probably small fry for some people who are well paid, but for the majority who are on average salaries it does represent a large chunk of salary gone - even if you do buy a season ticket! Quite eye watering to see the cost, it's around £3k at least for the cheapest yearly season with a travelcard.

There's also no logic in some of the fares - why for example do some singles cost as much as returns? You're only travelling one way and therefore it should be half the price, right, as you're only taking up space one way? After all if you travel in a car your petrol tank doesn't suddenly use the same amount of fuel for a two way journey that it does for a one way?
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WillPS
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Sun 08 Jan, 2012 04.30

I could write a good deal on the failings of the Privatised Railway of the UK, but I'll try my best to keep it sweet.

It's a complete and total balls-up.

The idea of having:
a) a company (typically a bank) who would own passenger stock, and invest in new stock (ROSCO)
and
b) a company (typically a bus/transport company) who rents from ROSCO(s) and does with them whatever the DfT tells them to do (TOCs)
is totally ludicrous.

We are now in the absolutely farcical situation where old, unpleasant, substandard (if not unsafe) trains which British Rail paid for in the 70s and 80s but were sold to ROSCOs for £0.00 on account of them being considered life expired (in the mid-90s) have since been rented back to the TOCs for somewhere close to £100,000pa. The stuff the DfT tells the TOCs to do is often unprofitable - so what's the net result? The treasury is indirectly paying millions of pounds every year for stock which they paid for in the first place.

The TOCs themselves are hardly bastions of entrepreneurship either - they do more or less exactly as they are told to do operationally, so their contribution in exchange for a fat chunk of subsidy (or licenses to print money in the case of the InterCity franchises) is mainly just a load of branding.

Just as with Lord Beeching's cuts in the 60s, privatisation was (at best) totally misguided. The stated aim of both was to make the railways profitable - the net effect of both - an increased rail subsidy.
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Alexia
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Sun 08 Jan, 2012 12.36

Chris wrote:I don't know whether you were being facetious Alexia but certainly the £1 seats will be sold at a loss.
Well, as it turns out, £3.50 is now the minimum charge for Cardiff-London on the Megabus. However it does illustrate the two models of fares which can be utelised:

1) -- charge lower fares in pursuit of capacity so that you get higher passenger numbers from "essential" plus "casual" travellers -- i.e. £20 for a journey x 100 passengers per train == £2000.

2) -- charge higher fares so that you get fairly guaranteed income off the "essential" travellers -- i.e. £40 for a journey x 50 passengers per train == £2000.

Megabus try to target the former, while TOCs seem to target the latter.
WillPS wrote:We are now in the absolutely farcical situation where old, unpleasant, substandard (if not unsafe) trains which British Rail paid for in the 70s and 80s but were sold to ROSCOs for £0.00 on account of them being considered life expired (in the mid-90s) have since been rented back to the TOCs for somewhere close to £100,000pa. The stuff the DfT tells the TOCs to do is often unprofitable - so what's the net result? The treasury is indirectly paying millions of pounds every year for stock which they paid for in the first place.
That'll be the Pacers then. Agree -- not only are they life expired, they're also not DDA compliant, and so technically will be illegal in 2019.
Jovis
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Joined: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 20.08

Sun 08 Jan, 2012 13.34

Alexia wrote:
barcode wrote:
17p goes on the cost of leasing the trains from the rolling stock operating companies
Why don't we just buy out the rolling Stock? im sure one company in the south did and cut costs alot.
Because what happens when the franchise gets sold to another operator? Say FGW lose their franchise in the next round of bids (as is very likely) -- they'd be left with trains they don't need as they won't be a TOC any more, and will be forced to sell them on at a loss. Not good business sense.
Why can't they sell them on to the new TOC? Why does it have to be at a loss? Can't there be some arrangement where these are automatically passed on or something? I'm being quite simplistic here, I realise.
Alexia
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Sun 08 Jan, 2012 13.55

Jovis wrote:Why can't they sell them on to the new TOC? Why does it have to be at a loss? Can't there be some arrangement where these are automatically passed on or something? I'm being quite simplistic here, I realise.
In the 1980s ITV Franchise Round, TVS were forced to use portakabins while Southern stalled on selling on their studios.

In the world of trains, a vanquished franchise, should it own its own Rolling Stock, if they wanted to avoid selling them to the next franchise at whatever price the incoming franchise decided to pay, could choose to sell them to whomever they wanted - any other franchise in the UK or even around the 4ft standard gauge world. The new incoming franchise would then have to purchase new trains which can take months to manufacture and deliver (see the S-Stock lunacy on the LU at the moment), which would lead to them using either substandard interim stock such as pacers, sprinters or locomotive hauled coaches just as Virgin used to do back in the early days before they took delivery of their first batch of Voyagers, therefore incurring costs which would naturally then be passed onto passengers.

At least the leasing agreement means if First lose their GW franchise tomorrow, those Class 43s and Mk3s will still be running back and for Paddington rather than being sold for scrap or off to another franchise.
barcode
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Sun 08 Jan, 2012 15.09

Then why cant Network rail or Government own the rolling stock?
cwathen
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Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

Sun 08 Jan, 2012 15.28

I think when comparing UK rail to other countries it's easy to forget that at least in this country we do still have a large passenger network covering even rural areas. Other countries may have newer, faster, cleaner trains but they also often have only a skeletal rail network which connects together only major cities, nothing like what we have. Personally, I'd rather have our old cludgy inefficient network but one which will get me to pretty much any town I want than some uber-modern and efficient link between major cities, but which can't get me any further afield than that.

That said, I think there are two key things which need to be improved:

Firstly, I think the whole timetable needs a complete rethink on the national level, with greater thought given to spacing between services and efficiency of connections. There are far too many stations in the UK where you get 3 trains to the same place in an hour but then nothing for 45 minutes, and where trains don't properly connect with other trains, leaving passengers having long waits for the next train. Some of them are ridiculous - like at Newton Abbot where the entire timetable is 'off' by about 2 minutes for most of the day, leaving the train you want to connect to rolling out of the station just as the one you are on rolls in and then a half hour wait for the next connection. It would be so simple to fix this, but it never happens.

Secondly, there needs to be a review of the pricing system to address firstly the complexities of it (with the difference between 'peak' and 'off peak' not being at all clear cut - it depends where you are in the country, what train you are on, whether or not you are using a railcard etc etc) and then the gulf between peak and off peak fares being addressed (possibly even reviewing whether there should be a distinction). For example, I can (or is that could - not been on it since the new year fare increases) get from Plymouth to Paignton for £4.25 return off peak using my railcard (which is only £10 for a whole year). Yet at peak time, this increases to £10.60 (peak fare, no railcard) - an increase of about 150% just for travelling a couple of hours earlier, but on the same trains and with the journey taking the same amount of time. It's surely fairer to make the off peak fare a couple of quid more and the peak fare a couple of quid cheaper to balance this out, and doing this would then make it generally cheaper to travel by train than by car which will encourage rail use. And as others have said, singles really should be more than a token amount cheaper than returns.
At least the leasing agreement means if First lose their GW franchise tomorrow, those Class 43s and Mk3s will still be running back and for Paddington rather than being sold for scrap or off to another franchise.
IIRC don't FGW outrightly own the extra HST sets which they got when they withdrew the 180's? In which case if FGW loose their franchise it is entirely possible that the new franchisee will have to make do with less rolling stock.
We are now in the absolutely farcical situation where old, unpleasant, substandard (if not unsafe) trains which British Rail paid for in the 70s and 80s but were sold to ROSCOs for £0.00 on account of them being considered life expired (in the mid-90s) have since been rented back to the TOCs for somewhere close to £100,000pa. The stuff the DfT tells the TOCs to do is often unprofitable - so what's the net result? The treasury is indirectly paying millions of pounds every year for stock which they paid for in the first place.
One argument I *don't* buy when moaning about britain's railways is the 'age of rolling stock' arguments. Trains are not cars. They are built to have long service lives - 20 years is not old in train terms. Most of the DMUs and EMUs built in the 1980's were introduced to replace stock which was built in the 1950's which was 30+ years old at the time. Most UK rolling simply isn't that old - AFAIK the HST is the only 1970's-built train still in frontline service, and to be fair they have been so heavily refurbished in recent years that the bodyshell is pretty much the only original part left. I believe the next oldest train in regular service is the class 455 (the red things which SWT operate in London) where the oldest examples were built in 1982 and again they were also stripped down to the bodyshell during a major technical and cosmetic refurb only a few years ago.

The Pacers and Sprinters still in use were largely built in the mid-late 80's and so are only about 25 years old - still newer than the stock they replaced was when they were introduced. Pretty much everything else in use is at least 90's-built. FGW notably tried to move on by bringing in the class 180 'adelantes' about 10 years ago, but they proved to be so crap that they decided investing in the HSTs was a better bet than pursuing new rolling stock at the time.

One thing I would like to see though is better deployment of stock so that it is better matched the services it will run, with newer/refurbed stock being given priority to primary routes and older stock moved to secondary routes. TOCs often argue that they have little choice with what they run but I find this hard to believe - Wessex trains had fewer class 158 units than FGW do yet they almost always managed to find one to operate long services whilst FGW will happily use a 150/1 to operate a 4 hour Penzance-Bristol service whilst much more comfortable 158's potter about on short journeys because they don't want to send them to Devon & Cornwall. Even the much maligned 'pacer' units do have a role - it's just that that purpose isn't running 2 hour+ services which they often get deployed on whilst better stock gets utilised on short routes.
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dosxuk
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Location: Sheffield

Sun 08 Jan, 2012 15.30

Alexia wrote:At least the leasing agreement means if First lose their GW franchise tomorrow, those Class 43s and Mk3s will still be running back and for Paddington rather than being sold for scrap or off to another franchise.
Don't First own some of HSTs out right though, and are (alegedly) using them as a bargaining chip in the GW franchise renewels?
Alexia
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Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Sun 08 Jan, 2012 15.58

Perhaps I chose a bad example in the Class 43s :oops: but I believe the argument would stand for most other TOCs -- when Virgin lost its CC franchise which then went to Cross Country, they inherited Virgin's Voyagers.

The oldest rolling stock still active in regular service in the UK? That would be the Island Line's Class 483, built in 1938.
cwathen
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Sun 08 Jan, 2012 16.00

dosxuk wrote:
Alexia wrote:At least the leasing agreement means if First lose their GW franchise tomorrow, those Class 43s and Mk3s will still be running back and for Paddington rather than being sold for scrap or off to another franchise.
Don't First own some of HSTs out right though, and are (alegedly) using them as a bargaining chip in the GW franchise renewels?
Not sure how much of a chip they will prove to be though, if Pacers will end up technically illegal through the DDA seemingly for no other reason than they have a two-step entrance, I can't see that MK3 carriages with heavy slam doors and only an external door handle which needs to be pushed practically down to 90 degrees to open will be allowed to survive as it is impossible for disabled people to open the doors.
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