Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Solent Go for a relaunch!

News out today from First Group, is that the Solent Travelcard is going through a bit of a makeover, or a relaunch, if you want to use a better word.

From August, it will be an electronic smartcard, rather than just a ticket. Details of how you get this smartcard haven't been released yet, but as it goes, this is the only bit that has changed. Well maybe one or two bits have changed.

The price is still the same, but you can now use it on selected ferries - however indications are that this will be an added extra. Oh, and it looks like one operator has pulled out, as there are nine operators with this smartcard, whereas there were ten before. Now who is the missing operator is anyone's guess, but it is either Salisbury Reds or Xelabus. My money is on Xelabus as being the one that has pulled out.

The concept of the ticket is brilliant - the idea that you can hop on and hop off between operators, without buying a ticket each time, is something that all users of public transport need, and can go a long way in getting people to leave their cars behind.

But my problem with the Solent card is that the area it covers is too big to be worthwhile, just using buses. If if it were to include train travel, then it would be onto a winner.

For sake of argument, if you wanted to go from Southampton to Portsmouth, you wouldn't take the bus, as the quickest journey takes 97 minutes! (yes, over an hour and a half). Depending on traffic, the car takes 38 minutes, and the quickest train journey is 49 minutes. You may save something on the cost, but you won't be saving time if you go by bus.

So, the travelcard will be great for travelling between two areas, where two or more operators exist, but as long as the journey time is reasonable (less than an hour). After that, you don't really gain that much.

What would be better, and would more sense, if three type of travelcard were made available. The full conurbation ticket, and then one to cover Solent West (Southampton, Eastleigh and Winchester), and one to cover Solent East (Portsmouth, Fareham and Havant). Obviously the two smaller tickets would be at a cheaper price than the full conurbation ticket.

It's even possible that zoning tickets might actually be better - it works very well for London. Who goes to London these days by train, and doesn't buy a London travelcard? It's almost unthinkable.

If you want to entice people out of their cars, you really need to think of these things. The Solent card will be great, but it won't appeal to the majority - which is where it will let itself down, again.

The Solent card doesn't need a relaunch - it needs a rethink to make it better and more appealing to everyone, otherwise it will never work.

Monday, 23 June 2014

HS3 - Well that is a surprise

Quick, somebody shot me - While listening to Today on Radio 4 this morning, I found myself agreeing with George Osborne.

I know, it is frightening. But he has a point, and it's about time we started talking about it.

The need for a third high speed railway line.

Mind you, we haven't finished the second one yet.

I have said before, that when the Channel Tunnel was completed, HS1 should have opened at the same time. And by then, we would have started building HS2. Just imagine for a moment, where we would be now if we can actually built high speed lines one after the other?

Well, the Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994 - 20 years ago. So I suspect we would be building a line to the West Country by now, rather than just talking about a third line from Manchester to Leeds.

Agreed that hindsight is a wonderful thing - yes we should have done that - and I still fail to understand why we never did. Well yes I do - politics is the usual problem. And Nimbyism is another.

And before anyone asks, yes I would be happy to have a railway at the end of my garden - it would look a damn sight better than the houses that are currently there!!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Only two years?

I must admit that running a railway company can't be the easiest thing in life. Not something that I would like to try under current restrictions.

Maybe it's just me, but I fail to understand the point of awarding contract extensions for only a couple of years. Just exactly how much benefit is that going to bring?

Well according to the recent Virgin extension for West coast - an awful lot. And all in just the two years.

Two years, to spend £20 million on improving stations, and another £35 million on improving the trains. That seems an awful lot to spend.

Now if you're going to spend that much money, you would expect everything would come your way at the next bidding round?

If the next bidding actually works next time, and Virgin don't get the new contract, do they get some sort of refund?  And let's face it, the bidding process really has got to work really well, otherwise I can see someone throwing their toys out of the pram again.

Personally I don't think so.

I reckon that Virgin are an automatic shoe in for the new contract in 2017. After all, £55 million is a lot to spend, just to get nothing out of it in the end. Otherwise, it would be hardly worth the risk.