Railway funding is a mess – and I don’t mean HS2, I mean the meat and drink lines.
Another small example of this is Northern Rail changing the rules for “off-peak” travel – which stands to catch out a lot of occasional travellers.
The message is that occasional travellers are not really wanted and are only there to be milked. This is foolish because the “occasional traveller” is making a discretionary trip that can be abandoned in favour of either some other “day out” or a different means of travel.
Funding of the railways is confused. Subsidies seem to favour:
- London and the South East – thereby increasing the overheating problems in that region
- Middle Class commuters – thereby redistributing from non-rail-users and poorer commuters – who pay their taxes but travel by bus.
And yet subsidies are half-hearted – neither making rail travel available to a wide group of potential travellers, nor minimising the cost to the exchequer and taxpayer.
Continuing with the current example:
Why has Northern Rail cheese-pared off-peak travel? Their website says:
The changes are being made after the Department for Transport asked Northern to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its new franchise agreement.
The change to off-peak tickets is the only option that has been taken forward and will be used to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers by reducing subsidy to Northern.
Northern Rail website : Off-peak travel is changing
The change is piecemeal applying at different times to different parts of the network.
Evening peak restrictions will apply from Monday 8 September 2014 for all journeys wholly within the Transport for Greater Manchester, Travel South Yorkshire and Metro (West Yorkshire) areas. Also included are lines radiating out of Manchester and Leeds, and on the Newcastle to Hexham line.
From Monday 8 September off-peak tickets will no longer be able to be used at peak times during weekday evenings on local rail services in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire from 16.01 – 18.29. The change will also apply to services between Hexham and Newcastle from 16.01 – 17.59.
There is little rhyme or reason – other than playing with times and routes to try and make up some mythical figure that the Department of Transport has asked for. It further obfuscates ticketing – a problem that non-regular users have struggled with since privatisation.
So will I still make the occasional trip into a regional centre by train? Will I fret about getting back before the restrictions or suffer a few hours delay if I am a bit late in starting my return journey? Will I worry about getting caught out and being embarrassingly forced to pay a penalty fare – or worse? Or will I just pay extra for an unrestricted ticket? Or might I use the bus – or drive?
Most of the trips impacted by these changes are discretionary and alternatives are available.
If I become a perpetual non-user of rail services, will I continue to support the idea of subsidising rail services or will I be happy to see them driven into disuse by a thousand cuts?