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RAIL TRAVEL


Efforts to deliver fast, economical, reliable rail travel are ongoing, but what are the prospects of success?


A TICKET TO RIDE


T WORDS ANTHEA GERRIE 112 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019


HIS IS WHAT RAIL PASSENGERS WANT – fast rides between city centres, working all the way, enjoying refreshments while public-spiritedly embracing one of the greenest modes of transport. In reality, travelling by train is often a nightmare of cancelled or delayed departures,


sky-high fares, standing room only and a ticketing regime mired in the last century. However, there’s a renewed government drive to improve the situation, with the long-awaited Williams Review report to be published imminently, as well as directives aimed at reducing carbon emissions that inevitably affect rail travel. Despite problems with timetables, strikes and delays caused by repair works in 2018-2019, the number of rail passenger journeys actually rose by 3 per cent compared to the year before. B2B platform Evolvi has recorded a 10 per cent rise in


rail transactions so far this year. However, Josh Collier, head of proposition for rail and ground transport at Capita Travel and Events, warns: “Those travellers who have had a poor experience with trains may be unwilling to risk repeating it.” So why is travelling by rail such a gamble in the UK when it comes to almost every issue from punctuality to guaranteed seats?


At the heart of the problem is a lack of incentive for


rail operators to invest in what tends to be limited-time franchises. This is an issue the Williams Review was set up to address. In a recent speech, chair Keith Williams promised a revolutionary approach. “I have been frank with the Department for Transport about the scale of change required,” he said. The report is expected to propose a radical overhaul of the railway (see box, p114). Meanwhile, Theresa May’s resignation and replacement by Boris Johnson has signalled a change in emphasis for railway infrastructure. Johnson is known to be sceptical of HS2, but a fan of the Northern


buyingbusinesstravel.com


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