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January 3 Premium prices

Norman Baker has been lambasted for his statements regarding the new year’s rail fare rises, which he declared were ‘not nearly as expensive’ as the media was presenting.

Some passengers are facing huge increases, and for many choosing an alternative and thus cheaper service, is not an option.

It is these commuters who bear the brunt of the increases, and no amount of booking in advance can help them save money. Baker’s response to this is that these people are using a ‘premium service’ and should pay accordingly.

cheaper alternatives, notably a

full refurbishment of the Mark 4 carriages.

And fi nally the West Coast fi asco, which has been grabbing headlines since the summer. Confusion and unanswered questions remain around culpability for the errors that took place, which the publication of Laidlaw’s report went only some way to tackling – and we’re still waiting for the Brown review.

Such large orders and projects are inevitably complicated, and diversions from the planned path should perhaps be expected. Yet the extent of the issues at stake will undoubtedly shake faith in the rail industry and the Government’s ability to manage its franchising programme. Perhaps 2013 will offer some stability after a rocky year in rail.

December 10 Capacity controversy

So passengers must pay unavoidably higher fares, regardless of any improvements in performance or infrastructure investment that ministers wheel out as reasons for the rises. Is this a fair way to distribute the cost of the railway?

December 17 Perpetual postponement

As the end of the year draws nearer, three huge stories from 2012 remain unresolved. The Thameslink contract award is dragging on, with Siemens still fi nalising commercial and fi nancial close – the effects of which have been harsh on rival bidder Bombardier.

Secondly the IEP contract, which has already suffered considerable delays, now has the expected extension option in jeopardy, with the DfT reportedly considering

14 | rail technology magazine Dec/Jan 13

However, this does not take into account the fi gures for London Midland WCML


services, which are much closer to capacity, nor the crowding on Virgin services in the ‘shoulder’, with passengers desperately try to avoid the huge premiums associated with peak-time travel to and from London. These premiums are aimed at capturing as much

i More blogs like this at: the-sleepers-daily-blog

The battle for HS2 has taken another turn today, as opponents of the project cite offi cial data to dispute the desperate need for increased capacity.

Nearly half of seats on Virgin Trains services out of London at peak times are empty, Government fi gures demonstrate.

cash as possible from the relatively wealthy business market, but they do clearly trap many people who have to travel at certain times of the day.

Many people make the rational choice to travel on earlier or later trains, as the system incentivises them to – but they are not represented in the fi gures councils are using to support their case against HS2.

The simple truth is that passenger demand for rail is increasing, and this does mean that extra capacity will be needed, especially by 2032 when HS2 could be operational.

At least both sides are now talking about the same key motivations for HS2, instead of opponents constantly criticising the push for speed and refusing to consider the debate around capacity.

December 7 The price of failure

Following the Government’s publication of the much-anticipated Laidlaw report, now the National Audit Offi ce has identifi ed fl aws in the franchising process.

And fi gures for the cost of the mistakes are fl ying thick and fast – £40m for the failed bidders, £8.9m in staff, legal and advisor costs, as well as the loss of revenue from the West Coast franchise and the cost of pausing the whole franchising programme.

Again, the NAO highlights the lack

of overall responsibility within the department for the process, and calls for lessons to be learnt for future franchising competitions.

Total oversight of such complex projects is absolutely necessary to achieve quality assurance and good use of taxpayers’ money.

December 3 Think safety

Safety issues have been paramount today,

with the RMT citing McNulty-recommended savings as the cause of potentially disastrous track damage,

Northern Rail

raising awareness of passenger safety throughout the winter, and new legislation coming into force to tackle cable theft.

In a time of cost-cutting and emphasis on effi ciency measures, it is critical that safety is not allowed to slip as a priority.

Laws to protect against metal theft and awareness campaigns to promote passenger safety from slips, trips and falls, must be welcomed as positive steps forward. Northern Rail’s work could also be used as an example of best practice for the whole industry.

And the safety row over the East Coast Main Line cracked track should provide a warning to Network Rail – regardless of how quickly the fault was identifi ed and dealt with, it presents signifi cant danger to passengers that could undo any effi ciency savings gained in the process.

© Liberal Democrats & Dave Radcliffe

© Kevin Prichard Photog-

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