Monday, October 07, 2013

One reason why rail privatisation is so rubbish

Guest post by son of RMT union member and now top UNISON steward, Ebrahim Piperdy on the daftness of Rail Privatisation - the confusion, the failure to really compete, the extra expense and the lack of joined up thinking that goes on when you give private companies natural monopolies. 

"I cannot believe the way the railways are so fragmented and because of this it is no wonder why the ticket prices are so high. Here’s one example of my daily journey.

At present I commute from Laindon (a small town next to Basildon, Essex) to Highbury and Islington, London (zone 2). The cost of a monthly ticket is £261.00. I thought this is well expensive and decided to use an electric bike from Laindon to Upminster (zone 6) and use my London transport Oystercard which only costs £5.40 daily instead of £13.70!

On one occasion I had to work from Stratford, London (zone 3). So I got off at Plaistow and decided to bike to Stratford. Unfortunately the bit on my bike which holds the battery broke so I had to plan my return journey home.

When I looked at the fares, I found that if I travelled home via Greater Anglia Railways through Romford rather than through West Ham then via C2C Railways to Laindon it would cost £6.50 single rather than £7.50. I also found out a return from Stratford to Laindon return via Greater Anglia would be £10.00 and not £12.10.

In effect Greater Anglia was cheaper but they had no season ticket in place when travelling via Romford. C2C was able to charge the more expensive fare. So I did not have the choice to travel via a slightly slower route at a cheaper price. I wrote to Greater Anglia about this and advised my local MP.

Greater Anglia came back and said they would not introduce this as there was no demand and passengers should pay £2540.00 per year. However, finally Greater Anglia did introduce the season ticket I requested which now costs £2000.00 per year. I was glad to have contributed towards saving someone that travels from Laindon to Stratford £540.00 per year.

I then found other examples of other season tickets across the UK whereby if you travelled via a specific train operator the cost of the season ticket would be much cheaper. For instance when going from Stoke to Manchester when travelling with Virgin Rail it costs £2028.00 whereas the any permitted route costs £2780.00.

Because of this I asked Greater Anglia to advise why they did not do this for people who wish to travel from Laindon to Highbury via Romford and not the any permitted route. Greater Anglia replied by saying I should contact C2C. They stated this twice!

I contacted C2C and they stated Greater Anglia would need to decide this as I originally thought. Because of this I have sent all this information to "Passenger Focus" and requested this issue be looked at by the Office for Rail Regulation.

So I look forward to Passenger Focus’s response. I wonder if they will reply and say they are not responsible as well!!!


Anonymous said...

The issue here is really with the way the fares are allocated rather than anything to do with privatisation. British Rail developed a system called ORCATS which did for the nationalised railway what the Railway Clearing House did for pre-nationalised companies. The system divides and allocates the fare revenue to different companies (or in the case of BR, sectors) concerned.

Travelling from Stratford to Laindon via Romford doesn't require London Underground and therefore that's why it's cheaper. Whereas going via West Ham does, in addition the c2c from Upminster to West Ham mirrors District Line so LU are going to be allocated a portion of the Upminster to West Ham fare too!

I know that merely just looks at the tip of the discussion iceberg, I don't agree that rail privatisation is wholly responsible for the fares mess, it was a mess long before 1949 and BR didn't do very much to fix it.

However, leaving fares aside, for someone that has commuted on the LTS and c2c for over twenty-five years, rail privatisation gave us something a lot better than the guided busway to Fenchurch Street British Rail were going to give us in the early 1990s.

John Gray said...

thanks for that anon. I hope that Ebrahim will reply on the detail since I'm not much of a train buff (more Ken Bike).

In general though I think no one really wants BR mark 2 but other countries seem to run better and cheaper train services than us and it seems to me that public ownership is a necessary part of this.

Ebrahim Piperdy said...

The key issue is it was privatised wrong. If they combined maintenance with the franchises together then Train Operating Companies would take more care with the service they deliver to passengers rather than focus on maximising profits. Train Operating Companies are only focused on ticketing.

At present Network Rail and Train Operating Companies have to argue over how much should Network Rail compensate for a delay per minute which can amount to hundreds of pounds per minute. This can involve solicitors to battle on behalf of each party which can again run into hundreds of pounds.

There is no doubt there was an agenda for Railtrack to fail as it was inevitable. East Coast mainline was then retaken into public ownership again and this was caused by the same company National Express which operates C2C. As well as a poor service the taxpayer had to foot the bill whilst passengers pay £149.00 return off peak for example to travel from London to Leeds!

With the trains themselves Greater Anglia has not invested at all. With Crossrail around the corner I cannot see any incentive in improving services and the rolling stock itself. Other train operating companies have invested to some degree but the ticket prices are way too high.

As I understand London Overground is publicly owned and to date the service is very reliable and has a proper modern fleet. When I went up north I could not believe they still have railbuses and the passenger has to pay silly ticket prices to travel on these and these are privately owed.

My example is how Greater Anglia is responsible for what I requested for them to look into similar to how Virgin Rail do this from Stoke to Manchester. When you state that TFL wish to get a contribution then how is it that if I travelled off peak from Highbury to Upminster this costs £1.50 per journey. This would involve the Jubilee Line, Overground and C2C.

£1.50 per journey is different to £7.90 off peak from Highbury to Laindon. Therefore my journey if using a season ticket should be via Romford. If I was running Greater Anglia I would be competing with C2C in wishing to get passengers to travel on our routes. There is no incentive for them to do this.

What if someone who was not familiar with this route continued to pay the fares they do without realising there can and should be a cheaper alternative? Over a lifetime the passenger would have overpaid say for example from Laindon to Stratford by £540.00 per year. It was only when I challenged Greater Anglia did they introduce these season tickets, no other passengers appeared to have challenged this or may have done so but did not put the right arguments forward for Greater Anglia to introduce the correct fare.

C2C have invested in new trains, however the TFL price from Highbury to Upminster is as cheap as £1.50. From Highbury to Laindon it is about 6 times the price.

My father worked for the railways for 33 years. He started as a cleaner and worked his way up to Train Crew Manager. Towards the end of his career in 1995 he said there are two types of employees who work for the railway, rail staff and businessmen!

Ebrahim Piperdy said...

Check out this