*Two thirds say improved public transport will solve road congestion, but almost half want cheaper fares to encourage switch from car to train*
As train operators advocate ‘rail peak pricing’ as one way to reduce overcrowding on peak hour trains, independent research commissioned by Detica, the IT and transport consultancy, shows that this may be biting the hand that feeds it.
The rail industry’s announcement follows two weeks after Transport Secretary Alistair Darling launched a national debate on road pricing. The Detica survey, carried out by MORI, asked for people’s views on how money raised by road pricing should be spent - and public transport topped the list of responses. 42% of respondents wanted cheaper public transport, while 36% thought public transport services should be improved and extended. This would be good news for rail companies, who could secure additional funds to improve and increase services.
Clearly road transport volumes significantly outweigh those on rail. So a small percentage of drivers switching to rail because of road pricing would have a significant impact on already crowded trains. So is ‘rail peak pricing’ the only answer? The Association of Train Operating Companies’ (ATOC) ‘Looking Forward’ report published on 21 June includes this as part of a package of potential measures to cope with expected travel growth, which is a solid starting point.
Grant Klein, head of transport at Detica, comments: “Logically, there are two types of response to increased demand for rail travel: increase ticket prices or increase capacity. There certainly is scope for changing the way ticket prices are set to allow more directly for different prices during congested travel times, but this would have to be implemented as part of a broader plan to rationalise rail fares. Further, it seems inconceivable that road and rail pricing would not be coordinated in some way to optimise travel for all.
“Increasing capacity of the network is potentially more sustainable, but would need to be planned on a route-by-route basis. In some circumstances there is undoubtedly scope for additional rail infrastructure - either in more track or longer stations to accommodate longer trains. Where this is not an option, there is scope for more advanced network optimisation and control systems to be deployed that can efficiently increase the throughput of trains on existing track. The premise here is that by understanding your assets and customers, you can more effectively match the service to their needs. The rail industry has invested significantly in systems to measure passenger flow and railway assets; the challenge now is to make best use of the information these provide.”
The British public clearly recognise that road congestion is a major problem. Indeed, 90% of respondents to the Detica survey agreed Britain’s roads are too congested. The majority (64%) viewed better public transport as the best solution.
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For further information: www.detica.com
About the research
Detica commissioned MORI to survey a representative sample of the GB population of 1,075 adults on behalf of Detica. Questions were asked face-to-face between the 19 and 23 May 2005.
Detica is an IT consultancy that specialises in the development of large-scale information management and analysis systems. The company helps major commercial and government organisations turn complex data and information into relevant and valuable intelligence. Detica helps its clients solve problems in areas such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), security, fraud, Business Intelligence and risk management.
Detica has a long-established track record in the transport sector, advising government and commercial clients on topics ranging from methods and technologies for road user charging through ticketing and journey information systems to railway communications. Detica’s recent clients in the transport sector have included the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency, Network Rail and National Express Group.
For Detica, please contact David Bell or Eleanor Pinkerton at Portfolio Communications on +44 (0) 20 7240 6959, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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