Trains in the UK

all new Phil
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Location: Next door to Hell

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 17.36

So, it's been on the news over the past fortnight about the rise in rail fares, and also about the proposals for the new high-speed rail service from London to Birmingham (and inevitably back again). It got me thinking - why do we not seem to be able to *do* trains properly in this country?

I don't for a second believe that our train services are as bad as some people claim, however it is pretty clear that other countries seem to have much more efficient and cheaper services than the UK. Why is this? Surely it can't be down to underinvestment, seeing as we have some of the highest prices in Europe.

The pricing structures are frankly bizarre. Book early enough, and you can pay what is almost too cheap a price. Book last minute, and you pay well over the odds. Why can the prices not just be consistent?

What would need to happen in order for us to have cheaper, more efficient train services? Less competition? More competition? Privatisation doesn't seem to have made things any better or worse. Does the whole system need an overhaul?
*ass
bilky asko
Posts: 1109
Joined: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 19.48

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.12

all new Phil wrote:So, it's been on the news over the past fortnight about the rise in rail fares, and also about the proposals for the new high-speed rail service from London to Birmingham (and inevitably back again). It got me thinking - why do we not seem to be able to *do* trains properly in this country?

I don't for a second believe that our train services are as bad as some people claim, however it is pretty clear that other countries seem to have much more efficient and cheaper services than the UK. Why is this? Surely it can't be down to underinvestment, seeing as we have some of the highest prices in Europe.

The pricing structures are frankly bizarre. Book early enough, and you can pay what is almost too cheap a price. Book last minute, and you pay well over the odds. Why can the prices not just be consistent?

What would need to happen in order for us to have cheaper, more efficient train services? Less competition? More competition? Privatisation doesn't seem to have made things any better or worse. Does the whole system need an overhaul?
We like having an awful transport system, it seems. I once read that the UK had the worst roads in the whole of Europe.
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barcode
Posts: 1472
Joined: Wed 29 Aug, 2007 19.36

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.38

Unlike most of place in the EU and China, The government will not cough the cash, or to put it another way we just dont want to pay the higher tax threshold, that is one of main reason for the situation, Hopeful DB will grab more train franchise
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rdobbie
Posts: 260
Joined: Thu 08 Jul, 2004 18.12

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.41

It's all so messed up.

When I went to university I looked into the option of going there by train, but it was £4.90 return for a 12 mile journey. The same return journey by car cost me about £2.50 in petrol. (I know the cost of motoring isn't just about fuel, but once you've made a one-off outlay on the vehicle and insurance, it's inevitable that you make individual car-v-train decisions in terms of "what would it cost me in petrol?").

I would have preferred to go by train as it was faster and easier, but it was the price that kept me behind the wheel of my car.

I know the government doesn't directly set rail fares, but I think this whole mess is underpinned by a hidden agenda to keep us in our cars. The amount that the government collects from motorists is phenomenal - and it needs that money to keep rolling in. Never, ever, ever believe any government when it says it wants less cars on the roads.

So while the costs of public transport and motoring are both stupidly high, they're always trying to maintain a "balance" to prevent too many people being coaxed out of their cars.

As petrol prices have soared over the last few years, their only way of keeping the balance has been to make sure public transport fares have soared by a similar %.
Alexia
Posts: 2966
Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.41

I'd just like to throw in some context, and some figures. I will comment personally on matters later, but for now I'll put this data out there:

Of each £1 income the TOCs earn from ticket sales:
> 48p goes to infrastructure costs -- track, signalling, stations etc (don't forget, while most stations are operated by the TOCs, they are owned and maintained by NR)
> 17p goes on staffing costs - wages, insurance, pensions
> 17p goes on the cost of leasing the trains from the rolling stock operating companies
> 4p is spent on fuel and/or electricity costs
> 11p is spent on the "misc" stuff: train maintenance, administration, contracting etc.
> which leaves 3p profit for the TOC.

Also the average price of a single fare across Britain is £5.30. However, the value for money this brings varies due to region:
> London/SE : 23p per passenger mile
> Long distance : 22p per passenger mile
> Regional : 17p per mile

Some more context from the unions: RMT believe that the shareholders benefit, while ASLEF believe (as I do) that the railways should be run as a public service rather than a cutthroat business.

The final bit of context: the fare rises do not go on staffing costs, so don't think us traincrew, station staff and engineers are benefitting one bit; just to get that out of the way.
barcode
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Joined: Wed 29 Aug, 2007 19.36

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.44

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.
Alexia
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Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 19.57

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.
bilky asko wrote:We like having an awful transport system, it seems. I once read that the UK had the worst roads in the whole of Europe.
Devil's Advocate: You can't compare the two. Roadbuilding is the responsibility of each and every local authority, so if your area has bad roads, it's the council's fault. Rail infrastructure is controlled on a national level and protected by contract with the privatised TOCs and FOCs and Network Rail. Rail and infrastructure replacement and renewal ("engineering works") is very frequent -- only today they are working on the Salop-Crewe section.
barcode wrote:Unlike most of place in the EU and China, The government will not cough the cash, or to put it another way we just dont want to pay the higher tax threshold, that is one of main reason for the situation, Hopeful DB will grab more train franchise
DB are my employers, so I will refrain from commenting personally about the prospect of them taking over more franchises than the five or six they currently have a finger or two in. I will however say that I think in terms of TOCs, that less is more. I believe in a couple of years, we will see more homogenisation and harmonisation of train companies. After all - it has been going that way for a while (ATW was the product of two former companies, FGW has swallowed up Wessex Trains etc)
rdobbie wrote:As petrol prices have soared over the last few years, their only way of keeping the balance has been to make sure public transport fares have soared by a similar %.
Buses certainly, but as electrification takes hold, the fuel costs for trains are (see figures above) a relatively small % of your fare £1; and will drop over time, especially as the longer distance routes get electrified such as the GWML.
bilky asko
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Joined: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 19.48

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 20.29

Alexia wrote:
bilky asko wrote:We like having an awful transport system, it seems. I once read that the UK had the worst roads in the whole of Europe.
Devil's Advocate: You can't compare the two. Roadbuilding is the responsibility of each and every local authority, so if your area has bad roads, it's the council's fault. Rail infrastructure is controlled on a national level and protected by contract with the privatised TOCs and FOCs and Network Rail. Rail and infrastructure replacement and renewal ("engineering works") is very frequent -- only today they are working on the Salop-Crewe section.
I'm merely saying that we have awful roads and an awful rail infrastructure. I don't think transport is as much of a priority in this country as in other countries.
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Alexia
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Sat 07 Jan, 2012 20.40

bilky asko wrote:I'm merely saying that we have awful roads and an awful rail infrastructure. I don't think transport is as much of a priority in this country as in other countries.
Go on then -- give us some examples of countries with equally good road and rail systems.

USA - Apart from Amtrak, passenger rail is virtually nonexistent.

France & Germany - great intercity services, but crap local and regional provision.

Any more?
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Pete
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Location: Dundee

Sat 07 Jan, 2012 20.42

Oh yes German regional trains are shocking although their u-bahn's are consistently excellent.

Italy, in my experience, has the best trains.
"He has to be larger than bacon"
bilky asko
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Sat 07 Jan, 2012 20.48

Alexia wrote:
bilky asko wrote:I'm merely saying that we have awful roads and an awful rail infrastructure. I don't think transport is as much of a priority in this country as in other countries.
Go on then -- give us some examples of countries with equally good road and rail systems.

USA - Apart from Amtrak, passenger rail is virtually nonexistent.

France & Germany - great intercity services, but crap local and regional provision.

Any more?
I'm saying that because as a country we don't care as much about transport as other countries, we don't have any good transport systems.
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