Memorandum by Henry Law Esq (PRF 05)
PASSENGER RAIL FRANCHISING
1. Will this new approach, which includes
placing the emphasis on the negotiation of changes and short extensions
to existing franchises, rather than on the awarding of new long-term
contracts ensure that rapid improvements in the safety, punctuality,
reliability, comfort and frequency of services are achieved?
1. Extension of short term contracts could
encourage train owners and operators to take economical initiatives,
such as upgrading and refurbishment of existing rolling stock
which is by no means life expired. This is excellent value for
money, offering a low-cost alternative which delivers most of
the benefits of new trains at a fraction of the cost. It should
also avoid the teething troubles which have affected new trains
delivered since privatisation whilst still providing a platform
for development of appropriate technological advancement through
2. The industry could be further encouraged
to make best use of existing valuable assets through the removal
of certain conditions/obstacles, such as the deadline for removal
of Mark 1 rolling stock from active service at the end of 2002.
As a result of this deadline, maintenance of these vehicles has
been prematurely cut to a bare minimum, with an adverse effect
on service quality.
3. There are options which could be engineered
and made available, whereby Mark 1 rolling stock can be brought
up to current safety standards and kept in operation until the
end of its economic life, around 2015. It is also possible to
upgrade this and other classes of stock by retro-fitting new/improved
components, thereby producing reliable, refurbished trains which
fully satisfy passengers' expectations.
4. Such projects would not detract from
production of new rolling stock; as traffic growth continues,
so does the requirement for an overall increase in the size of
the rolling stock fleet. It may however, assist with keeping jobs
in Britain, as opposed to importation of new trains where shortage
of capacity for new build has forced purchase from abroad.
5. As regards safety, punctuality, reliability,
comfort and frequency of services is concerned, current problems
are to a large extent the result of the current philosophy of
railway operation; this is discussed in the answers to question
6. For a given line capacity, there is a
trade-off between frequency of service and punctuality, and to
some extent comfort also; this again is discussed in the answers
to question 4. On many routes, the service pattern is very different
from what it was before privatisation; trains are now more frequent,
a few minutes faster, but mostly made up of short units. This
makes for good advertising copy, but in practice, it means that
the timetable is easily disrupted and at popular travel times,
there is serious overcrowding. Comfort can also be affected by
the faster speeds as ride quality is significantly worse.
2. Will this new approach secure investment
in additional network capacity and other improvements to meet
both the long and short-term needs of the railways and whether
the sums allocated to rail investment remain adequate in the light
of events since the publication of the Government's ten-year plan
1. It is diffcult to see how short franchise
extensions will lead to any investment for the longer term. As
regards improvements to the fixed infrastructure, this is in any
case unattractive to the investor as so much of the benefit is
external (ie over and above traffic receipts); mostly, this settles
in enhanced land values along the line of the improved route;
a good example of this is the Chiltern Line, where improvements
have significantly boosted property values along the A40 corridor.
2. The very serious drawback of a short-term
focus is that major improvements are discouraged, including, for
example, structure gauge enhancement, reconstruction of bottlenecks
to improve capacity, and opening of new lines and new stations.
3. There appears to be no systematic means
of forecasting the external value of rail investment schemes,
for example by estimating the summated value of land value enhancements,
which probably constitutes the most reliable measure of the economic
benefit and justification for infrastructure enhancements and
developments. In the absence of such a methodology, there is no
reliable means of prioritising schemes; is it, for example, better
to spend a particular sum of taxpayers' money on a single, high-speed
rail link or a number of urban heavy or light rail schemes?
4. A notorious example of this is the Phase
2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the main effect of which will
be to give passengers a relatively small time saving, which will
be immediately squandered as they will be delivered into one of
the most congested parts of central London; it must be asked whether
it would have been better to bring forward the Crossrail and Thameslink
2000 schemes instead. The same objection also applies to the West
Coast Main Line upgrade stage 2, compounded in this case by runaway
costs. On the other hand, at £200 million, Croydon Tramlink
appears to have delivered outstanding value and will be a major
element in the regeneration of a run-down part the town centre.
5. The objections raised in the preceding
paragraph are an example of a general failure to view transport
needs from the customers' perspective, which is that of the total,
door-to-door journey. Investment plans need to be re-focused to
address the total journeyfrom home or office to station,
station to final destination. At least as important as major investments
in high speed routes. At least as important as major investments
in high speed routes are relatively low cost initiatives dealing
with, for instance, the number and convenience of inter-modal
and train-to-train transfers and interchanges; personal security;
baggage; staff attitudes; ticket purchase and information systems,
6. There is a need to create low cost spare
capacity, for example through the use of longer trains composed
of older, refurbished rolling stock. The current trend towards
operating short frequent trains is squandering the existing capacity
of the infrastructure and the price structure paid for train paths
needs to be changed to discourage the train companies from doing
this and promote the operation of longer trains.
3. Will this new approach provide the framework
for major infrastructure enhancement projects to be taken forward
now that Railtrack is to focus on the maintenance and renewal
of the existing network?
Please see replies to question 2 above.
4. Will this new approach transform the SRA's
leadership of the industry, its day-to-day management of franchises
and the way in which it assesses and awards new and extended contracts
for passenger services?
1. Not in the light of the preceding comments.
The SRA needs to be told how it is to exercise its leadership
function, whether or not the present train operator franchise
system is retained. The SRA will be unable to adopt an effective
leadership role for the industry until it is in a position to
go out with "shopping lists" which expressly set out
what is required of franchisees.
(B) Exchequer Contribution To Rail Services
1. SRA needs to develop a model in which
the rail service component of land values is assessed and acknowledged
as the primary measure of the public value of railways. Having
established this, it becomes possible to determine what services
are required and to put a sensible ceiling on the size of the
2. In addition , the SRA needs to be in
a position to know what kind of service improvements represent
genuine added value in terms of traffic receipts, and what do
(C) Commission For Integrated Transport Survey
Attention is drawn to the results of the survey
conducted by the Commission for Integrated Transport which was
published on 18 July 2001. This shows what those questioned considered
||24 per cent|
|2||Level of fares||20 per cent|
|3||Overcrowding||13 per cent|
|4||Personal security||10 per cent|
|5||Frequency||9 per cent|
|6||Cleanliness||7 per cent|
|7||Number of places accessed
||6 per cent|
|8||Journey time||3 per cent|
|9||Station staff attitudes
||3 per cent|
|10||On-train staff attitude
||1 per cent|
(D) Journey Times
1. It is noteworthy that journey time is near the bottom
of the list of priorities. It is unfortunate that this was not
known before the current investment was committed, as most of
the available resources for rail improvements have now been pre-empted
by two high speed rail schemes.
2. There are aspects of high speed rail which appear
to be little understood. Costs rise exponentially with speed.
This arises from various factors:
Vehicles and their components must be designed
for more exacting conditions.
Signalling systems become more complex.
Wear and tear on track and rolling stock are increased.
Energy costs are higher.
High speed rail also causes other problems:
Freight and slower passenger trains cannot share
the same tracks.
Services are more susceptible to serious disruption.
Utilisation must be optimised through the use
of yield management techniques as developed in the airline industry.
3. Against this can be offset, in some circumstances,
improved utilisation of rolling stock (each train can make more
journeys) and, to an extent, higher traffic receipts; it is, however,
difficult to establish how much traffic growth can be accounted
for by speeding up the trains. Depending on how the data is collected
and analysed, it seems as if traffic increases by between 0.4
per cent and 1.3 per
cent for each 1 per
cent reduction in journey time.
4. About 75 per cent of the population lives within 150
miles of Oxford. This means that the typical inter city journey
is around 150 miles. The arithmetic of speed means that successive
speed increments bring diminishing journey time reductions; on
a 150 mile journey, a speed increase from 80 mph to 100 mph saves
22.5 minutes; the next 20 mph, from 100 mph to 120 mph saves only
15 minutes, and so on. Thus there is a point of diminishing returns;
for inter-city journeys, the optimum top speed is probably between
90 and 110 mph for inter-city journeys and 75 mph for journeys
of up to 80 miles.
1. There is also a link between speed and fares; people
will pay more for a faster journey, but the amount depends on
passengers' circumstances, the purpose of their journey and who
is paying the fare. Studies
published in 1986 indicated a figure of about 6 pence for each
minute saved when travelling for leisure, 12 pence a minute for
business travel and 23 pence a minute for executive travel when
the employer is paying. Time is moneybut more so for some
people than others. We have a segmented market.
2. The high costs of speed mean that spare capacity cannot
be economically provided. This is the principal reason why long-distance
rail travel has adopted the yield management techniques as developed
in the airline industry. The result is that we no longer have
an affordable walk-on service.
(F) Train Frequency
The relatively low proportion of interviewees placing train
frequency at the top of their priority should also be noted. Passengers
obviously prefer frequent trains; a turn-up-and-go service is
the ideal, and this requires frequent trains. But when the capacity
of the fixed infrastructure is limited, the frequency should be
no more than can be accommodated with sufficient leeway to prevent
a domino effect collapse of the train service when things go wrong;
frequency can be the enemy of punctuality and reliability.
The above point also has a bearing on another issue, that
of overcrowding. The current trend is towards running short frequent
trains. As well as making poor use of the fixed infrastructure,
and train staff, it is also a cause of overcrowding because people
prefer to travel at some times rather than others.
(H) Rolling Stock Design
1. Question 1 refers to the need to improve comfort on
the railways. This cannot be done without defining parameters
for train comfort. The RUCCs attempted to do this in "Aspirations
for Rolling Stock Design", but under Morton, as a matter
of deliberate policy, the SRA abstained from attempting to influence
rolling stock design.
2. Recent designs of rolling stock have regressed in
comparison to those of fifty years ago, especially as regards
passenger space. This is astonishing, considering the experience
of manufacturers of clothing and motor vehicles, who are having
to cater for the increase in average height of the population
over the past fifty years, as well as the growing prevalence of
3. What is necessary is a basic performance specification,
with certain parameters laid down. Mark 1 stock can be taken as
a benchmark, and new trains should be in no way inferior to this.
Amongst the items covered should be:
General aspects of seat configuration eg spacing,
dimensions, aisle widths, percentage of seating in facing bays,
proportion of those with tables, etc seating.
Amount and location of space for luggage space,
bicycles, clothing and personal belongings, and security provisions
for these items.
Standards for vibration.
Performance specifications for ventilation systems.
Proportion of toilets (passenger per toilet).
Provision of inter-vehicle gangway connections
and performance specifications thereof.
External route indicationperformance specifications.
Number, width and location of doors and design
4. Rolling stock design should be specified with reference
to current anthropometric data. So far, this has been done only
in relation to disability access. But obvious disability is only
one end of a spectrum of capacities which vary across the entire
populationfor example, children have particular needs,
as does the growing proportion of older people with age-related
mobility restrictions and other limitations. There is also a need
to revisit the disability access regulations themselves, having
regard to compliance costs, which have turned out to be considerable,
and also to the actual utilisation and demand for the facilities
5. The excessive complexity of new trains should be a
matter of concern. It was reported that the Alstom Juniper EMU
has 40 km of cable per vehicle. Amongst the undesirable effects
Commissioning and reliability problems.
Hidden costs, eg staff training, rebuilding of
High capital costs which mean that seats have to
be crammed in and
spare capacity (eg fleets larger than the bare minimum) cannot
be provided. This is another factor which has compelled the railways
to adopt airline style yield management techniques.
6. There is a need to assess on-train systems in terms
of value added. Examples are heating and ventilation, and passenger
information systems; for instance, paper information systems (maps
and labels) provide most, and in some respects more, of the functionality
of electronic information systems at a fraction of the cost.
7. Also of concern is the question of compatibility of
different types of rolling stock. All vehicles on the railway
should be capable of being coupled to all other vehicles without
the need for special adapters (with the possible exception of
vehicles semi-permanently coupled within fixed-formation units.
At least braking systems should be operationally compatible. All
DMU units should have full operational compatibility, and EMU
stock having the same electrical supply system should also have
full operational compatibility.
There is a need to review responsibility for safety. Safety
measures impose costs on the railways which reduce their competitiveness
with other modes. Since privatisation, we have seen a series of
measures which have been demanded, the costs of which are out
of all proportion to the risk. A rigorous cost-effective approach
to safety must be applied.
(J) A Model For Medium/Long-Distance Train Services
The following model for long-train services is proposed.
In contrast to the airline model of rail travel which is the emerging
pattern, the model is that of the urban bus:
Walk-on basic fare set at about Supersaver rate
(around 10 pence per mile), and subject to regulation.
Travel at this rate to be available at all times
with exception of extreme peaks.
Normal method of ticket purchase to be on train
National network of services of moderate speeds
to be set up; normal journey times would typically equate to the
best of those of the early 1970s ie Euston to Crewe in 2 hours,
Kings Cross to Newcastle in 3 hours 45 minutes.
No seat reservations as sufficient seats will
normally be available; access to trains at extreme peaks controlled
by regulation tickets.
Train staff to be one steward per vehicle, to
be responsible for selling tickets, providing at-seat refreshments,
cleaning and tidying, assisting passengers, etc.
5. Will this new approach improve industrial relations
in the railways?
Uncertainty about the future inevitably creates a sense of
anxiety and insecurity. It is difficult to see how this can promote
loyalty and commitment at any level within an organisation.
Shilton 1982. Back
Evans 1969. Back
Marks, Fowkes and Nash, 1986. Back
The capital cost of per seat has risen by a factor of between
3 and 6 since 1955. A mark 1 coach cost about £200 per seat
(1955 prices, including the cost of traction); the Adtranz Turbostar
works out at about £12000 per seat and the seats in the new
Virgin fleet are around £24,000 each. Back