Robert Hampton

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29th March 2013

Fuss about a bus
Posted by at 10.25pm | In the News | No responses

THIS IS A BUS bag from The ApprenticeThe Echo had a good piece recently investigating high bus fares, prompted by Arriva raising their fares yet again. A single journey within Liverpool now costs an eye-watering £2.10, even if you’re only travelling a few stops.

Compare with London, which is (we are always told) an expensive place to live. There, if you have an Oyster card, it costs just £1.40 for a single journey. Of course, London’s buses are controlled and priced by TfL, whereas the rest of the country have to make do with the free-for-all of deregulation.

Obviously the bus companies have to make their money somewhere, but there comes a point when it gets ridiculous. At those fares, a group of four people travelling together would pay £8.40 – they might be better off sharing a taxi. And of course, the people who suffer are the poorest members of society, who often have no alternative but to use the bus.

Arriva have introduced all sorts of gimmicks – free wi-fi, environmentally friendly hybrid buses and loads more, but if the fares keep increasing, there are going to be no passengers on the buses. If the bus companies were serious about getting people out of their cars, they would drop the fares and try to entice more people onto their services.

16th July 2012

Bright spark
Posted by at 11.06pm | Trains | No responses

A rather gruesome Cameron-Clegg press conference framed the announcement that a vast swathe of railway schemes are to go ahead between now and 2019.

The options outlined by the Department for Transport are “illustrative” – in other words, they’re more of a shopping list than actual finalised plans, but still they’re quite extensive.

Electrification is the big news: there are now plans to electrify the Midland Main Line and the main line to Swansea, as well as commuter lines around Cardiff. The Northern Hub scheme will go ahead with big capacity improvements around Manchester, with knock-on benefits for Liverpool, Leeds and the smaller towns in-between.

Locally, there is a welcome boost for the Transpennine Express service from Liverpool, which could be doubled in frequency and operated with electric trains, running to Newcastle rather than Scarborough as they do now. Liverpool could also get a direct link to Buxton and an improved service to Sheffield as part of the Northern Hub scheme. Generally, there will be more trains running in and out of Lime Street, which will be welcomed by commuters currently shoehorned into overcrowded Pacers.

You would think I would be happy about all this investment. I am, but I worry about where the money is coming from. These schemes will cost over £9 billion, and the promised efficiency savings at the railway (which, so far, seem to amount to London Midland closing a load of ticket offices and not much else) are being very slow in coming.

This means that the passenger will be paying, through increased fares. We already have at least two years of ticket price rises of inflation+3% coming up, at a time when many people already consider train fares to be uncomfortably expensive.

Unless you’re well-organised and plan your journey sufficiently far ahead to get an Advance ticket (or opt for the slower London Midland service), it now costs nearly 80 quid return to go from Liverpool to London. That’s the off-peak fare. If you need to travel during “peak” times (which now, thanks to Virgin tightening the restrictions, means any train arriving at Euston before 11.30am!) you could end up paying £277 – a fare already out of reach of many people.

The proposals outlined today could be a big step towards a better railway network. It would be a shame if those benefits were to be only available to the well-off.

2nd September 2010

Normally I like it via the back door, but THIS…
Posted by at 8.46pm | Trains | 1 response

Oh, Merseyrail — you lavish me with umbrellas and discounted coffees, and then you go and do something to dispel the warm fuzzies.

Read the rest of this post »

16th October 2008

Official: Merseyrail does not want people using its trains
Posted by at 7.44pm | Trains | No responses

Every time Merseyrail seems like its about to shake off its Miseryrail tag, they manage to shoot themselves in the foot.

Merseyrail is introducing a minimum off-peak day return fare of £3 for travel after 9.30am, meaning that for thousands of passengers making shorter journeys, it will be cheaper to buy an “anytime” day return.

So an off-peak return journey from Aigburth to Liverpool Central, currently priced at £1.95, goes up to £2.50 — that’s a 28% increase. Great. 🙁

It doesn’t affect me directly, because I have a season ticket; and yes, I know that Merseyrail fares are incredibly cheap compared to elsewhere in the country, but I can’t help that the fair denizens of Merseyside are being shafted.

4th September 2008

Pushing the Envelope
Posted by at 10.52pm | Trains | No responses

The question, “what do you buy the train geek who has everything?” finally has an answer. The railway powers-that-be have published Avantix Traveller, an instant lookup program which will display the fares between any two stations in Britain, including — crucially — the time restrictions for “Off Peak” tickets.

Screenshot of Avantix Traveller software showing time restrictions for a Liverpool-London OffPeak Return

Getting this info from online sources is somewhat hit-and-miss, so it’s nice to have a definitive statement. You shouldn’t really have to pay £10.59 to get this information, and there’s no reason why the online journey planner couldn’t tell it to you, but it still compares well to the hefty National Fares Manual which used to be the only source for the curious traveller.

However, the main purpose of this post is not to point out my sad obsession with all things railway (that’s just a delightful side effect) but to point out the heartening efficiency with which TSO Shop handled my order. In the picture below, compare the size of the CD-ROM with the size of the envelope it came in.

Envelope which arrived from TSO

A tree died to make that envelope!

2nd January 2008

The Point of No Open Return
Posted by at 1.21pm | In the News, Trains | No responses

Regular readers (bless you, both) will know that I’m quite a fan of the railways. I think that a properly-managed rail network has an important part to play in this country’s transport network and I’m supportive of any initiative to improve it. I even use the trains for… gasp! Non-commuting purposes. Sometimes even getting on trains just for the hell of it.

But after reading three separate examples of the UK rail industry shooting itself in the foot, I wonder if soon I might be the only one left.