Published 10th December
The Office of The Rail Regulator (ORR) has issued a report containing the latest passenger statistics for UK railways. It shows that the number of passenger journeys continued to grow in all sectors.
The statistics are split into service groups and journeys on London and South East services totalled 259.1 million services in the second quarter of the 2012-13 financial year, a 6.4% increase on the same period the previous year. Long distance journeys totalled 32.6 million on long distance services representing a 4.7% increase. Regional services carried 84.4 million journeys, a 2.1% increase.
Another measure of how well the railways are performing is the total distrance travelled. Rail passengers were carried 14.8 billion kilometres in the same reporting period which was the most kilometres recorded within any quarter since records began. This showed an increase of 4.0% compared to the same period last year.
Total franchised passenger revenue in the reporting period reached £1.9billion or an increase of 7.7% compared with the same quarter last year. This is the highest recorded revenue generated within any quarter.
The thoughts of the Chairman of the RDG, Tim O’ Toole, said in his lecture (reported on this website) that the franchising system wasn’t broken and these figures demonstrate how right he was. His chief concern was how long it would take the Government to get the franchising process back on track, as it were!
Rail.co.uk spoke to executives up to Managing Director level in the last week about what happens next. Given that the process has been halted for four months or so, it is pretty certain that the existing franchises such as Great Western and C2C will be offered an extension in similar fashion as West Coast.
Stagecoach has said that it will be seeking to expand it’s rail activities in the UK, it currently runs the East Midlands and Southwest Trains franchises and has a 49% share in the Virgin West Coast franchise.
The East Coast Franchise has been operated by Directly Operated Railways, the Government’s train company, for three years. Virgin and First Group will probably bid along with some European bidders.
The Great Western Franchise is likely to be extended which will be a bit ironic as First Great Western exercised a break clause agreed by the DFT to end the franchise in March 2013. This was about to be refranchised but has now been halted until proper systems can be put in place following the Laidlaw report.
The DfT will now have to offer new terms to FGW and other incumbent franchisees in what is currently a buyers’ market. The FGW franchise will probably be extended by at least six months on a management contract, as with the Virgin franchise earlier this year and now again extended for up to 23 months.
The next Great Western franchise is possibly the most difficult one to bid for as it will have to accommodate electrification and the introduction of new trains. Both can have a serious impact on performance and revenue.
It seems that Arriva Cross Country could not make use of Rail Minister Norman Baker MP announcement in November that plans are being made to make it easier for train operators to adjust timetables and better serve passengers when dealing with music and sporting events. (See below).
He said that sports fans travelling to games will benefit from more convenient train services under plans to make it easier for operators to offer more flexible timetables
The changes are being introduced after a successful trial during the London 2012 Games, will mean that on special occasions train operators will be able to adjust a small portion of the timetable to better serve passengers without seeking permission from the government.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said:
The Olympic Games were a massive success and proved our transport system was able to successfully carry record numbers of passengers. We helped train operators cope with the changing demand by giving them more flexibility to give passengers the services they needed.
This has proved such an unqualified success that we have decided to permanently cut the red tape involved in adjusting small portions of the timetable. The changes give train companies the opportunity to ensure passengers are able to plan ahead to ensure they make it to their football matches and concerts and back home again on time.
Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said:
This is good news for passengers. Train companies have been seeking greater freedom to adapt their timetables to suit the needs of their customers and this move will be a big boost for people wanting to enjoy many special events across the country.
The changes enable operators in England to adapt their timetables to cater for events in the calendar year when changes in passenger demand are expected to be significantly different – such as during sporting and cultural events or during school holidays.
Passenger numbers could probably be higher if longer trains were operated at busy times. For example, international rugby at Cardiff on December 1 brought absolute chaos to Arriva Cross-Country services via Birmingham New Street.
The 1030 Birmingham-Cardiff service was formed of a two car class 170 train which was full and standing when it arrived at New Street. This had two effects. Platform time was lost at each stop as passengers struggled to get off the service and more and more passengers were left behind at every station.
The 1700 train from Cardiff to Nottingham via Birmingham was also formed of a two car class 170. Passengers were left behind at Cardiff where the rugby had finished 40 minutes earlier.
This train became so overcrowded at Birmingham New Street, platform staff had to keep passengers away from it, and this was at 7pm. Christmas shoppers mixing with sports fans = full trains on a December Saturday.
So despite contacting Arriva Cross Country (AXC) about this lack of foresight and it is thought having spare trains available at weekends, no reply had been received within a week of asking them why such short trains were being utilised.
AXC should have recognised that once all the maximum amount of seats had been reserved, the train would be full and why not arrange for at least two more carriages to be provided?
Their website says: The CrossCountry franchise began on 11 November 2007 and since then we have been working to ensure that journeys with us are as relaxing and comfortable as possible. Many improvements have already been made; however, we will continue to strive for excellence by listening to what our customers tell us they want.
Will these kind of things be taken into consideration when the refranchising process recommences?