Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Elly pays the price

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, London, Politics by Chairman Pip on 10 February 2012

You may recall in my post about “Deano” that I mentioned trying to help my friend with her trip to Manchester. Fortunately she managed to find a solution to that little situation, but I saw a frustrated tweet from her a few days ago bemoaning the fact that, for a journey she was making that day to St Albans, she had to pay £18.00 as she got a train at 08:30, when had she gotten a train just half an hour later, she would have paid £11.00. I would imagine it was doubly irritating as her reason for going to St Albans, while personally important, was not time critical (i.e. she didn’t HAVE to be there for a certain time), and so she could have arranged to travel a bit later and save a shedload of dosh. Well, as I sometimes say (and it may sound harsh so forgive me Elly), but “lesson learned”. What I say more often is that you have to be cute to play the ticketing game on the railways in these here parts.

However, my friend’s predicament also got me thinking about the announcement from Boris Johnson this week that he would seek to obtain greater control over London’s commuter and suburban rail services for the Mayor. The idea is that TfL would assume a level of control over the operation of all rail services within Greater London similar to that it already exercises with London Overground, which would integrate rail much more with the rest of the capital’s transport network, cost farepayers less (as TfL traditionally have lower fare rises than the train operators), and allow TfL to undertake work to improve stations themselves, rather than having to wait for the relvant TOC to prioritise it. Initially, the two London based franchises up for renewal soonest are being targeted – both the Greater Anglia franchise (currently run by Abellio as Greater Anglia) and the Integrated Kent Franchise (run by Govia as Southeastern) are to be re-let in 2014, and Boris has largely targeted those inner suburban routes that terminate either within the Travelcard zones or else just outside – the ones that have been indicated are Liverpool Street to Enfield Town/Hertford East/Chingford and Cannon Street/Charing Cross to Hayes/Dartford/Sevenoaks. Now, I’m not going to immediately come out and suggest this is an especially original idea, as (pain me though it does to admit it) Chairman Ken has been making the suggestion for several years. Though I will stridently continue to believe that Ken’s motives for making the suggestion was merely a continued grab for as much power as he can get his grubby, newt fancying mits on (as evidence I present his attempt to snare the majority of policing in the capital by merging the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and the London operations of the British Transport Police). But I can see the benefits of it if it means more investment in the local stations that commuters use, more frequent and better quality trains, and staffed stations. The investment TfL put into the operation it took on as London Overground has no doubt borne fruit given the rapid and significant improvement in customer satisfaction levels since it took over from Silverlink. But, before anyone gets too excited, there are things to consider, such as first off how many of these services fall outside TfL’s operating area? This is a major one, and the difficulties of TfL having to negotiate with someone else can be seen in the amount of time it took the Croxley Rail Link to get the go ahead. The areas that TfL would take on would probably see extensions to the existing Zone 9 in order to bring them within TfL’s fare structure, but how far out should these go? And what happens if commuter areas even further out start campaigning to be included? How far then will “London” extend? As far as Reading? Indeed, TfL will have control over rail services as far out as Maidenhead in the west and Shenfield in the east once Crossrail is complete. I’ve suggested in the past that Thameslink, once completed, should also be taken on by TfL to form a kind of “London RER” network that could integrate the two cross-London heavy rail routes. But again, where does London end? Would it be fair to have people boarding one train at Brighton paying one fare, but people boarding another paying something different? The whole thing seems to me to be a minefield designed, much as Ken’s headline grabbing fare cuts pledge, as something to win votes that would be difficult bordering on impossible to put into practice without massive consequences.

So, although Boris’ plan would likely have seen my friend pay less for her trip to St Albans, and would also probably have not had rail passengers have to break out of a locked station because the last train was late arriving and the staff had gone home, getting there won’t be as simple as a click of the fingers.

“Boris bid to run every rail service in London”

2 Responses

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  1. Al (@Al__S) said, on 10 February 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I’m now wondering what will happen with Hertford- I wonder if, with Oyster to Hertford North having been cut, whether Cheshunt will become the Oyster boundary instead.

    The thing is, to be “fair” if Hertford was in boundary, then Harlow really should be too. This wouldn’t be such a problem if under the mainline franchise operator, but you’d have to seriously redesign the timetable, and possibly add crossovers(?) to allow Harlow to be used as a terminus for TfL services.

  2. Claire said, on 12 February 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hmm, good idea in theory – the more integrated, the better ON THE WHOLE – but I think it will be too complicated to be practical, as you’ve outlined, and there will be a lot of arguments regarding what should be included and what shouldn’t that will cause friction and dissatisfaction, not to mention confusion.


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