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20.1.91 BBC Radio 4 (not broadcast)

Last week on Radio 4 News (15.1.91), an MP asked whether it was beyond the wit of BR to devise a fares system where standing passengers would pay less. It is not. What they may find difficult is how to stop people who pay the "Standing only" fare from cheating by using a variation of the 1st Class fiddle. In this game, passengers pay standard fare but sit in the 1st class "willing to pay if caught". A new "standing only" fare may actually eliminate standing as passengers who presently force their way onto obviously full trains decide to wait 5" for the next train with their "Standing only" ticket. There, they can park themselves firmly in a seat of the next commuter train secure in the knowledge that ticket inspection is rare, & preparing their sarcastic speech about the complexity of ticket fares. Dressed in a stylish business suit & carrying the obligatory executive briefcase & Personal Organiser, they will with a straight face explain that they hadn't noticed that the ticket carried in large block capitals the words "STANDING ONLY". They can take the name of the poor ticket collector & threaten to write to the Times, MP etc., criticising BR for "having so many different fares"

PS - they will be more likely to have their letter published than I will.


In January 1991, a Daily Telegraph report quoted £3,225 paid for a Diss to London annual season ticket. I wrote “Expressed as 4.6p per mile, one seventh the cost by an average car, it would have impressed readers less. By car, the 69,350 miles pa would cost £20,000 pa, and after a year, a car's value expressed in pence. A driver's life expectancy is reduced by tension and carbon monoxide and every minute of the journeys wasted - equal to 60 days pa to a conscientious businessman, of which there must be too few, hence the balance of payments problem. Annual fares impart maximum emotion but minimum information.  £3,225 pa spent on a car reveals nothing, until converted to a common denominator - pence per mile”. 

(It was not published. In 1995, attendees at Parliament were paid 72p per mile). 


27.6.91 phoned BBC R4 letters (not broadcast)

How can you expect rail tickets to guarantee a seat when each is valid for scores, hundreds or thousands of different trains & the buyer doesn't specify all of the trains concerned? Try paying for a hotel room in their peak without specifying both arrival & departure dates. They also charge higher in the peak because it is the peak not because their costs are higher. Try getting a refund from a hotel when you change your mind at short notice.


4.10.95, fax The Times (not published)

The “Rail Watchdog” has complained that BR would not, this month, for the first time, announce proposed national fare rises for next year. My book Blueprints for Bankruptcy, published early 1993, showed how Govt interference, legislation & policies had bankrupted railways. I listed under "What BR can learn from the Private Sector" 17 items on prices, the first being: "Do not advertise increases, publicise only bargain offers". Since then, the MoT has continued a 40 year practice of directing BR not to increase fares to a level managers deem necessary. When railways are privatised, the Regulator & Ministers notwithstanding, I predicted that fares will rise. It is naive to believe otherwise. In my business & personal dealings, I have yet to find a supplier or trader who routinely announces any price increases - except when they can blame Govt. One item I did not anticipate was metrication, from which traders were making increased profits on the day before it was supposed to apply. Rail fares will have to wait until miles are replaced by kilometres.


18.4.96 phoned Radio pm Letters (not broadcast)

Sir George Young has emphasised that fares in the private sector will be capped. The Good News is that rail fares have been capped by Courts of Law & Governments since 1923. The Bad News is that the Private Sector shouldn't need capping anyway; they are supposed to reduce prices! He also said that with over half of the system privatised; only 1/3rd of BR's former subsidy is being given to the private sector. That is because they haven't got around to trying to find franchisees for the scores of rural services which need the bulk of the subsidy. Incidentally, they were all retained because his predecessor Ministers would not allow closure. They are giving subsidies to former InterCity which had no subsidy after 1988.


3.12.08 e-mail The Times (not published)

Whoever made the statements quoted about jacking up prices, (Clark, Times 18 November), was harbouring illusions that BR was allowed the freedom of private sector industry, which when demand exceeds supply – following basic economic theory – jacks up prices, reduces the quantity, or both. He will be surprised to learn that BR fares trailed inflation by up to 47 points. If fares had kept 1% below inflation, BR would have been £11bn better off by 1993, without allowing for 45 years cumulative interest. Despite that, Ministers were interfering in BR pricing into the 1990s. It has clearly escaped his notice that private sector railways have ‘jacked up fares’, despite government funding assets which were supposed to be funded in the ‘New Jerusalem’ by the private sector. If UK industry had made half the economies made by BR from Day 1 in 1948, we would still have an industry worthy of the name. The illusion that BR was overstaffed was shattered when Chris Garnett, GNER Chief Executive said that ‘Railtrack and train companies made the mistake of assuming BR had been inefficient on costs, but found it was bloody efficient and had it down to a fine art’. (See Rail No. 466). Train companies cut staff, only to find they had to cancel thousands of trains until hundreds were re-engaged. Dismissed managers returned as costly ‘consultants’ to solve problems that were beyond the ken of the bus-boys. He must be unaware that Labour and Tory MPs stated in Parliament on 11 July 1991, that they had travelled on double manned German and Japanese trains. If 60mph PSVs had two drivers, passengers would not have to grapple with the wheel when the driver collapses. PSVs at 125mph even with two drivers would be a nightmare. Buses operating in exclusive guided systems, rarely exceed 40 mph, and never exceed 60. I would like to know how the ‘functionary’ claimed to know the purpose of every BR manager’s journey. No such data was ever sought from me nor my colleagues. I suspect he had been passed over for promotion. No one would regard as a ‘junket’ the sandwiches provided at our meetings, cutting to 30 minutes the midday break compared to 2 hour wine-and-cordon bleu for the private sector. Mr Clark may be interested to learn that when recessions occurred, the first rail losses were ‘business’ travel. They were the first to return after a recession ended – and there was market research to prove it. It does not require an Einstein to conclude many ‘meetings’ non-essential. Lines were closed or tracks singled because they could not be made to pay even with unlimited investment. His rose tinted spectacles have blocked out the tens of thousands of businesses closed because of losses – and they were not subject to ministerial interference on pricing or anything else. Objectors claimed – based on schemes with more holes than colanders – that losses could be reduced – not eliminated. No benefactor was named to pick up the balance. They were not subsidised before 1969. No ‘mystic’ forecast that soaring  fuel costs would divert users to rail, and had they done so, it is unlikely they would have provided cash to cover the interim. Nor did any mystic forecast the rapid decline of UK industry, despite fares and freight charges held below inflation by a Court of Law and the Minister. Failures by engineering contractors almost defy belief, but – along with fare rises, poorer punctuality, and unsafe practices – were forecast in my book in 1993.


15.5.09 Posted on Daily Telegraph web-site

"Adrian H" (30.8.07) cannot possibly recall fares rising by 25% pa, because it did not happen. For 20 years fares were held down by a Court of Law. Annual Accounts show that it took from 1948 to 1960 for fares to rise by 25% and another 5 years before rising a further 25%. Had fares risen by 25% pa, a 1 fare in 1948 would have become 228,000 by 1993.


27.7.09 to BBC Today programme (not broadcast)

The ATOC spokesman on the Today programme this morning compared the London - Manchester cheapest fare as BR £18, now £8. He also said there were more trains. The £18 fare in the BR era was available to an unlimited number of passengers without prior booking, by numerous alternative trains. Now there is a secret “limit on the number of cheap tickets available a week or more in advance” – not on the day of travel as applied with BR. If you miss the train nominated for the cheap ticket, you must pay the top level “walk-on” fare which the ATOC spokesman prudently did not compare. You may have to return by a specified train. In BR days, there were alternative routes by which a ticket may be used; now if you deviate from the original route, you pay again Regarding his claim of more trains, under BR there were through services Crewe-Stansted, North Wales–Scarborough and Manchester Airport-Skegness, to mention only three routes. These have been split to create respectively, three, two/three and five trains, requiring passengers to change. If one train is slightly late, no connection is held. If I had the time and inclination, I am sure I could add to that list.


24.11.09 Daily Telegraph (not published)

Sir Edgar Fay (Obituary 24 November) was representing the British Transport Commission in 1961, when it applied for the permission of the Transport Tribunal to raise fares which were 36 points behind the RPI. To illustrate the distance one could travel, he said that the cost of a monthly Season would enable a user to travel 2,244 miles Brighton-London compared to 2,178 miles London-Turkey by the Simplon-Orient. The President queried if this was via the new route! Once again, Sir Edgar’s plea was in vain because by the following year, fares were still trailing the RPI by 33 points. When the Tribunal was abolished by government in 1968 – after Dr. Beeching, called for similar pricing freedom to the private sector, fares were 41 points behind the RPI and the ruinous reign of the Tribunal – a unique court of law – had cost BR over £10bn in fares than would have applied if fares merely kept pace with inflation – which much of the private sector was witlessly exceeding, as it opened the door for cheaper imports.



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