» Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Railway Charging

Asked what timescale the Government had to respond on the proposals for train "congestion charging", the PMOS replied the proposal was ATOC’s vision for the next ten years. The PMOS said the ATOC proposal reported that passenger numbers were set to grow by one quarter over the next ten years, and it suggested congestion charging was set to manage travel during the rush hour.

Asked whether Alastair Darling would say if he agreed with the proposal, the PMOS said what we were doing was welcoming ATOC’s contribution and it recognised much of the work we had done through the White Paper. We would continue to engage with the industry and with passengers, and this was therefore part of an overall discussion. The PMOS said this was part of the on-going debate on how we maximised the use of the railways, and he drew attention to the fact that the Government was spending over £80 million a week on the railways.

Put to the PMOS that it seemed bizarre that people were being priced out of their cars onto trains, then out of train onto buses, and eventually people would have to walk, the PMOS said that the important thing was the load was spread on both road and rail, over the day as a whole as much as possible. It was entirely sensible to create incentives on both elements which did that. Clearly, at the same time, capacity had to be expanded, and we were trying to do just that. The PMOS said if people looked at improvements that had been made on the West Coast, progress could be seen, but when there was such a large increase in usage, it also created its own pressures that had to be dealt with.

Put to the PMOS that the disincentive to use trains would be on the individual customer, when it was actually the employers who would have to change their habits in order to shift the burden, the PMOS said that incentives could be created that businesses as well as individuals saw the advantages of travelling at cheaper times. That therefore would affect their behaviour, and such incentive schemes had been shown to work, both in this country and elsewhere. There was evidence that giving people the incentive to travel at different times of day did result in different behaviour. The PMOS said not everyone went to school, or had to travel at 9am, but rather, we could try and organise our days in different ways. Practice throughout the world showed that schemes like this worked.

Asked if in one year’s time, we would be saying "the exact opposite", as it could be a "potential disaster", the PMOS said that this was a consultation programme, and the journalist should speak to the Department of Transport for further details.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. George Muir should be sacked. He is a true public relations disaster area. Just when rail was being thought of as a means to avoid congestion charging on road, creating positive rail publicity, George / ATOC come out with this stupid idea, likely at the behest of the Government who set them up by saying you can’t have any more money from us!

    The answer really lies in making companies who wish to relocate to the north and Scotland generous grants and have swingeing congestion charges applied to the companies AND (by way of a supplementary income tax) their directors who choose to relocate to London and the Southeast or increase the size of their workforce there. Workers move to London and the Southeast as that is where all the well-paid jobs are. Why is this? Workers do not decide where the jobs are! The simple truth is that Directors (and Senior Civil Servants) are scared stiff that they won’t be able to ‘network’ and will become invisible if they aren’t at the centre of things – IE in London. This is a poor reason for screwing up the nations transport systems and there is no reason why the public should pay for this stupid attitude. Some businesses have moved to Leeds and been very successful – more should be encouraged to go to other places.

    The rail network needs expansion NOT contraction. The government and opposition say that Rail is too expensive and cite cost-benefit analysis which PROVES the point. However, it is possible to do cost-benefit analyses that prove anything you want to (Richard Bowker was good at this). What you do is exclude factors you can’t control but which influence the outcome. As an example, a good case could be made that it is very poor value for money for the NHS to treat older sick patients and it would be financially better to not treat them and let them die, but this is political suicide so it doesn’t happen. In a similar way, Air travel does not follow the polluter pays argument, nor is duty paid on fuel in the same way as cars or trains. This means that Rail cannot compete fairly and this potentially makes some rail services lose money or make less money, possibly become targets for withdrawal / closure or require greater subsidy. Cost-benefit analysis would likely say in this case that the line should close as the Air advantage is considered outside the scope of the study.

    Where is the ROAD freight congestion charging? – haven’t heard anything about this. An obvious upgrade of the transpennine route to UIC gauge allowing trucks AND cargo to be loaded onto rail flats would free huge amounts of M62 roadspace as many trucks go from Hull to Liverpool (for Ireland) or Manchester. Why isn’t it being done? Its down to votes. There are more votes from thousands of determined truckers than there are in voters who are actually sufficiently motivated to vote about trucks causing congestion. If you upgrade the M62, you please motorists AND truckers for a short while – there’s votes in that. Another reason is its in the North and its solid Labour territory where the congestion is anyway, so no reason to invest to get votes you already have virtually guaranteed.

    What should be done?

    – smooth out the working day as suggested above
    – Increase capacity on lines, this can often be
    done by better signalling as headways are
    often appalling, together with track
    – apply similar safety standards to ALL modes of
    transport and fairer tax regimes, THEN do cost-
    benefit analyses
    – reopen alternative / diversionary routes
    closed in 1960’s
    – provide overnight sleeper / couchette services
    on major routes, which would help reduce
    morning peak
    – only allow genuine ‘essential use’ company cars
    – set targets for large companies to use rail
    and fine those that don’t without justifiable
    – reduce first-class space significantly
    – make trains longer
    – make all airports rail connected where

    I feel better now after that rant!


    Comment by Clive Walton — 22 Jun 2005 on 12:25 pm | Link
  2. Isn’t it time to import rickshaws and bullock-carts to britain? – they are both ‘pollution’free!
    According to Government reports the ozone layer is only over Great Britain and the only way to protect is by levying a tax on ‘everything’ and say it is to protect our future generations.
    Within the next five years Britain will be in a unique position to qualify for a hand-out from Bangaldesh, India and Pakistan!!
    Wellcome to New Britain

    Comment by c.jayasinghe — 22 Jun 2005 on 2:27 pm | Link

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