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News from the UK Rail Industry 21st February 2019

Posted by: Warren Drobac
Industry News

What do the Rail Ticketing Reforms mean for the industry?

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) have published “radical” reforms for the rail ticketing system in Great Britain. Branded ‘Easier Fares For All’, the proposals are designed to completely overhaul the current system which is seen by many as out-dated and over-complicated. The reforms favour a simplified, stripped-back system which looks set to bring the ticketing process into the 21st century.

Currently passengers find themselves lost in the minefield of the internet looking for the cheapest fares and meticulously planning their journeys by swapping trains mid-way or racing against time to minimise cost. RDG plan to do away with all that by ensuring rail fares are both transparent and hassle-free.

Transport Focus Chief Executive Anthony Smith commented that the proposed changes were “sensible and long overdue,” while Russell McCullagh, Managing Director of payment technology supplier Rambus Ticketing, praised the move to simplify a “vastly complex” ticketing system. He went on to comment that “smart technology can be harnessed to help deliver more nimble ticketing products for both national and local needs, so from a supplier perspective we welcome today’s proposals.”

However, not all commentaries are favourable, with Guardian editor Patrick Collinson criticising the five-year timescale being allowed for the scheme to be fully implemented: “So in the time that it takes to, say, launch a new online bank and take on hundreds of thousands of customers, or create a new international low-cost airline, Britain’s creaking railway system will put together a smartphone app for tickets.” There are also fears over what the reforms could mean for industry jobs. Mick Cash, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers General Secretary, also expressed concerns, saying that the proposals “may be used as just a cover to close ticket offices and remove station staff under the ‎guise of automation.”

The pros and cons of the proposals won’t become clear for some time, so at Navartis we’ve taken time to present the key facts as they stand so far:

  • The leading principal is that of an “unbundled” single-leg pricing structure. These journeys will form the basis of a standard ticket price. From there pricing can be customised to apply discounts and premiums based on multiple journeys, return savings and off-peak travel time.
  • The streamlined, stripped-back system will make for a more transparent and open rail ticketing service for consumers.
  • A pay-as-you-go system is planned which will allow the industry to catch up with today’s smart phone, app-focused world.
  • There are plans to spread demand for train travel in order to relieve pressure from peak travel times.

Business-owners are encouraged by the reform. Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Business national chairman, highlighted the possible benefits to business as the rail industry becomes more transparent, user-friendly and accessible. He said: “Many small businesses rely on the rail network. The system needs to be brought into line with the more flexible way businesses work. This will allow companies to access the best deals when travelling, as well as making it easier to travel – and businesses to trade - across the regions of the UK.”

If the reforms are successful, then the industry’s transparency will surely be a good thing. As public perception of train travel shifts into the favourable, demand will grow and funding will be needed to keep up. If given, this will result in more projects and job opportunities for the UK’s rail professionals. Full stories here & here.

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Major Organisation changes for Network Rail

Network Rail has announced a sweep of changes to its organisation which includes a shift of management over its current routes.

New Chief Executive Andrew Haines plans to decentralise the network while increasing the number of routes from 8 to 13 in a bid to improve synergy between track and train. “The need for radical change is clear,” explained Haines. “Performance is not good enough and my comprehensive discussions with partners, passengers and politicians up and down the country has made clear to me the things we do well and the areas where we need to improve.”

Chief among Haines’ plans is to categorise the 13 routes into five new regions. Head Office roles and responsibilities are to devolve and be absorbed by these new regions which will have headquarter teams to support them. The five regions will be: Eastern, London North Western, Scotland, Southern, and Wales & Western. Regional Managing Directors are yet to be appointed. The hope is that this will make Network Rail more responsive and “fleeter of foot”. Full story.

East West Rail makes the case for more direct services

East West Rail have proposed a direct rail link between Ipswich, Norfolk and Oxford in the hopes of unlocking £17.5bn for the East Anglia community. Benefits would include the creation of 120,000 jobs as well as faster journey times and more services.

Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, explained that the investment would make the eastern section “central section ready,” commenting: “East West Rail will transform the economy and boost sustainable travel options across a large swathe of the country. The Eastern Section is an integral part of the overall scheme and I’d like to congratulate my colleagues in the Consortium’s Eastern Section Group for producing what is an incredibly powerful case for investment.” Full story.

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