Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
TUESDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2001
220. Dead silence.
(Mr Carroll) The main markets that those trains serve
tend to be the leisure and commuting markets. If one designs a
first class capabilityand that is what we have done with
our new class 180sthe level of capacity for the number
of customers that you can carry reduces quite substantially and
you are in danger of creating overcrowding on those very same
trains. That is the decision that was made for the class 175.
The class 180 does have a full first class capability with all
the benefits that brings as far as space and catering provision,
but it does serve a different market.
221. Do you realise that you are discriminating
against North Wales passengers by not providing such a service?
North Wales is starting to flourish now with industrial estates
and business people do wish to travel and work as they travel
and you do not offer that.
(Mr Carroll) I have travelled on a class 175 myself
and I was significantly impressed with the on train travel environment.
There are tables provided for some of the seats. There is in the
airline type seats a flap down table. More and more customers,
business customers particularly, are using laptop computers and
there is plenty of space for that. I would disagree that we are
discriminating against that particular flow of traffic.
(Mr Ben Davies) We also have at seat audio entertainment
on the three car units and that is at no extra cost. It is literally
bring your own headphones and tune into whichever radio station
you wish or whichever CD channel. It is a first class unit.
222. Unlike Adam, I do use the trains on non-Parliamentary
business I do so with my family and I pay. You quoted a fare that
has stayed stable for some years but one thing that I have noticed
is, with family railcards, children at one time used to be £2
standard. You now pay a percentage of the fare. I put it to you
that that is a big deterrent for getting families from cars onto
trains. That is an area where there has been a huge increase for
families, many of them on low incomes.
(Mr Carroll) That is a valid point and we will continue
to look at that. What we have tried to doI am sure you
have taken advantage of it as a regular customeris have
fairly eye catching and very advantageous offers. This was an
offer from South Wales to London that we ran during the year.
We had over 25,000 customers take advantage of this just from
South Wales to London. It did cause us some challenges as far
as overcrowding on certain trains but it did show that we are
very keen to get that leisure customer back on the trains and
off the road.
223. Many large, enlightened companies are now
adopting policy statements on social responsibility. Are you developing
(Mr Carroll) Yes. First has such a policy. It recognises
its role in delivering those kinds of improvements. The network
that we provide, both in terms of buses within cities and within
the rural communities and the links with train and tram services,
as well as our key priorities around safety, environmental and
other social issues, has been driven towards that kind of statement
and we can furnish a copy of that to the Committee.
224. You mentioned the Apex fare and that is
a very warmly received service from our area but for people who
live a long way from main lines they are still very confused by
the huge number of different fares at different levels and they
are often put off using the service because the fare that remains
in their mind is often the biggest one. Is there anything you
can do to simplify the system of fares and get that information
out to people who might want to use the service?
(Mr Carroll) Your point is very well made. The fare
structure can seem complicated. We are starting a policy of highlighting
the cheaper fares much more for the customer in trying to attract
them onto the trains. We are looking next year at simplifying
our fare structure into a much broader categorisation so that
the proliferation of fares that you describe is simplified and
we believe that would attract more customers. You are absolutely
225. I also use the railways as a leisure traveller
and on non-Parliamentary business, which I pay for. You mentioned
leisure fares and that some of them had fallen in real terms.
Could you tell me what has happened to first class fares, to second
class, non-leisure fares and to the Virgin fares in the same categories
(Mr Carroll) I do not have a detailed comparison but
I am quite happy to provide that to the Committee in terms of
increases and changes to the first class and full standard fare
and comparison with other trains companies.
226. I would be correct in assuming though that
those categories of fares generally have seen a rate of increase
greater than the increase in inflation over the last 12 months?
(Mr Carroll) You would be correct but the first class
fare has generally been on the back of improved, on board service.
We were the first to offer a full business type service, with
quite an extensive range of complementary food and drink, newspapers
etc. We have tried to add value into that first class offer. We
are acutely aware that value for money is a big issue in terms
of rail customers. The vast majority do have an alternative method
of travel and, as a result, we are very careful in our ongoing
pricing policy. If you look at recent years, with the general
increase in prices, particularly on leisure fares, the prices
have gone down.
Chairman: Thank you very much.