Ticketing on Public Transport (HC 84-i)
Transport Committee 20 Nov 2007
Evidence given by: 2.45 p.m. Chris Austin, Director, Public Policy, David Mapp, Commercial Director, Association of Train Operating Companies, Richard Malins, Managing Director, Transport Investigations Ltd. 3.30 p.m. Elaine Holt, Managing Director First Capital Connect, Martin Dean, Business Development Director First Group, First Group plc, Les Warneford, Managing Director, Stagecoach UK Bus, Ian Dobbs, Chief Executive, Stagecoach Group Rail Division, Stagecoach Group plc. 4.15 p.m. Keith Halstead, Chief Executive, Ewan Jones, Director of Operations & Deputy Chief Executive, Community Transport Association UK
Q25 Mr. Eric Martlew: I can believe your figures because if you are travelling daily in from Eltham you get the standard ticket but I think the reality, if you are looking at the amount of money people lose, it is probably much greater than 1% of the total because it will be on the long distance journeys that people will get the wrong priced ticket. This is partly because of the fact that the staff have a very complicated system to work at and it is also partly because some of the rail companies make it so confusing, and deliberately confusing, that people just do not know what is the correct price. You say 1% but what was the percentage lost to the customer from this survey?
Mr Mapp: We do not measure it in revenue terms but I think it would be a reasonable assumption to assume that that 1% is spread reasonably equally across all customers, in which case it would certainly intimate a 1% revenue loss as well.
Q26 Mr. Eric Martlew: How can you say that because the cost of a ticket from Carlisle would be £100-odd and if you get it wrong by £25 that would be £25 but the one from Eltham would be about £4 so if you get that wrong it is going to be a lot less, is it not?
Mr Mapp: I think the simple answer to your point is I do not know what the revenue effect is.
Q27 Mr. Eric Martlew: Thank you.
Mr Mapp: However, I think it is a reasonable assumption that it should be very similar to the overall effect in terms of the number of passengers affected by it. Perhaps I could just come back to the point about complacency because I would really like to emphasise the fact that we are not complacent about this. We understand that customers do get sold the wrong ticket and we are doing a number of things to improve our performance in that regard. There are a number of things that we are doing over the next 12 months which we hope will improve matters for customers.
Q28 Chairman: Such as?
Mr Mapp: Most importantly, our proposals for fare simplification, which were set out in the White Paper, which we plan to introduce during the course of 2008. That will introduce a simpler national fare structure based on four ticket types and we hope by doing that, in conjunction with the way in which fares are presented on the Internet and other forms of communication, customers will be able more easily to make sure they understand the fares on offer and obtain the most appropriate fare for the journey which they are making. There are other work streams that we also have, including having a look at the way in which ticket fare choices are presented on self-service ticket machines with a view to improving those presentations. We are also developing what we call the price promise, something that was asked for by the Government in its White Paper, where we will set out in clear and simple terms the things that we will do and commit to doing to make sure that customers obtain the best priced fare for their journey.
Q51 Mr. Eric Martlew: Mr Malins, you talked about mainline stations but can I ask Mr Austin, are you thinking of gating stations like Euston for example where people are going through with lots of luggage and will be travelling perhaps three, four or five hours? Is that what you are thinking about? It seems to me that you may be.
Mr Austin: Yes there are proposals to gate. I am not quite sure of the timescale, I do not have that in my head, but Waterloo, which is one of the larger stations that is not gated at the moment, and King's Cross, and Richard's example, Paddington is already gated partially. I think the important thing there is to make sure that the level of customer service surrounding that is high enough to assist people who have tickets that will not go through the gates or who have luggage. I know as a regular user of Paddington that the staffing levels at the barriers are quite high for that purpose.
Q100 Mr. Eric Martlew: Surely a lot of the problems are with Victorian stations and integrated ticketing because you cannot physically get the bus near the station. Plusbus or whatever will not work if the forecourts of the stations are full of cars so local government perhaps needs to clear the forecourts of the stations to get the buses there. Is that correct? Would that be helpful?
Mr Warneford: By and large I would say that where the bus can get to the station sensibly as part of its route, we probably can arrange with whatever the train company is to make sure that there is space for the bus. In your own area, Penrith for example, there is a bus/rail link and we have a place where we can stop at Penrith. The bigger problem - and I do not have an answer to it - is the first part of your question. A lot of stations are nowhere near convenient bus routes. You have to run dedicated services and they are expensive to provide.
Q101 Mr. Eric Martlew: That is the problem you cannot see the solution to?
Mr Warneford: Not without some extra funds to whoever provides that service.
Q102 Mr. Eric Martlew: There are two problems. One, you are saying there is no bus route that goes by.
Mr Warneford: In some places.
Q103 Mr. Eric Martlew: The other one is, even if there is, you cannot get near the stations anyway because the forecourts are full of cars parked.
Mr Warneford: Where we can easily access the station, we can probably overcome the parking problem because we can get space for a bus stop or two.
Mr Dobbs: It is down to us. We have to get those issues sorted out. They are not rocket science issues. Sometimes we have not been good at doing those things in the past. Traffic management at the fronts of stations is one of those things. We get a lot of illegal parking around the fronts of stations as well and we sometimes do not do a lot about it. We need to work with local authorities as well. It is fair to say that there are many places around the country where local authorities have been very generous in the help they have given us in solving some of those traffic management problems. Some counties, some cities, are more generous than others of course, but it is up to us to go and seek funds and sort things out and make sure that I can get the buses in the front, whether they belong to Stagecoach or First Group. We do not discriminate in that sense because we know it is good for both our companies.
Chairman: We would all like buses and trains to have some kind of coordination and we would like you to think of trying to get your passengers to the railway stations. That would be very revolutionary.
Q104 Mr. Eric Martlew: Mr Dean, do you see major problems when the national concessionary fare scheme starts?
Mr Dean: When the national scheme starts, I think a lot of the issues are already out in the open from the when the scheme became a free scheme in 2006/7. The biggest issue with the national scheme is going to be whether there might be some tourist hotspots which might become overwhelmed with older people using their ability to use their pass. For example, a London pensioner could go to Weymouth and use his pass on a bus service in Weymouth and, if they all decide to do that at the same time, then clearly there could be some capacity issues. That is something we will have to monitor very carefully.
Q105 Chairman: Is Weymouth Council aware of this impending invasion of London pensioners?
Mr Dean: I am sure they would welcome it.
Q131 Mr. Eric Martlew: You have both said that you would prefer a national scheme as in Wales and Scotland. Is that because you think you would make more money out of it or it would be easier to administer and you would not have the bureaucracy and the difficulties that some councils get too much and some get too little? Can we exclude London?
Mr Dean: Yes. We think from the point of view of the operators and the local authorities it would be much better if we could focus our minds on customer service and running the buses rather than negotiating on a number of schemes. Just to back up Mr Warneford's view, if you look at some companies, if they straddle a lot of administrative areas, they have to negotiate with about seven or eight concessionary fare authorities. This is very, very time consuming for the local authority and the bus company.
Q132 Chairman: They are not exactly expecting to come out of it with no benefit, are they?
Mr Dean: No.
Q147 Mr. Eric Martlew: Can I congratulate you for the work that you do? Would a national scheme be better for you because you say that some authorities do not give you any money; some of them give you a bit? As long as you are included in a national scheme, do you think it would be a better system?
Mr Halstead: It would be a better system, yes. At the moment at best it is a postcode lottery, just depending on which travel concession authority you live in. You either get some return or not as a community transport operator for running eligible services. If all community transport organisations were able to be included in the scheme, that would be a much better position.
Q148 Mr. Eric Martlew: The situation is that even community transport will not be able to help some of these people because they do not have the facilities in that particular area. Surely in that case the best solution would be for some payment to be made to taxis or private hire companies? There is a network out there. That would seem a very simple solution.
Mr Halstead: Yes. We want to look at the public transport network in the round to meet those gaps. If there is no community transport scheme there, by all means. Taxis are part of the local link to the transport networks too.
Q149 Mr. Eric Martlew: The way that that could possibly be done because of the cost factor would be that an individual would be given a credit, so much a year, £200 or £300 a year credit on a system which they could use on taxis or community transport.
Mr Halstead: We can certainly go down that route, yes.
Q150 Chairman: Disabled people who cannot use mainstream transport are entitled at the moment to concessions from the DWP, are they not, in terms of benefit?
Mr Halstead: Yes.
Q151 Chairman: Are these adequate? Do you think this is the way round it? Is that what you are telling Mr Martlew?
Mr Jones: Our key point here is that if there is a concession which is available to certain people in certain categories and the national policy is that disabled people over 60 are entitled to free transport on registered buses, then there will be a group of people who cannot access that concession due to the nature of the services and/or the vehicles. In those cases in order for a national policy to be delivered across the board locally, different tools need to be used. Yes, the registered bus service obviously is the first choice but we are arguing that community transport, taxis and other mechanisms should all be there in the toolbox because this is an issue of discrimination potentially otherwise because certain people cannot travel. It is not about community transport wanting funding. Community transport should be reimbursed for providing free travel and understands and accepts that it should be no better or no worse off as a result of doing that because this is about the concessionary travel for the individual, not about the Community Transport Group looking for a funding stream.
Q152 Mr. Eric Martlew: I accept what the Chairman says. It is called a mobility allowance, is it not? Would you accept that it would have to be a cash sum? It would not be paid in cash. You could not give an open ended commitment to some lady who lives at the top of a mountain to be able to travel in to do her shopping every day, could you? It would have to be cash limited to some extent. Would you accept that or not?
Mr Jones: Practically any scheme would have to be cash limited. The current scheme is cash limited.
Q153 Mr. Eric Martlew: The pensioner can travel every day where there is a bus. It does not matter how many times he travels; he or she does it free. If you were using taxis for example that would not be possible, would it? There would have to be a financial cap so that you could spend more over the year, I suspect in rural community transport as well.
Mr Jones: Yes. It is a question of agreeing where the balance point is, is it not? There is certainly an argument that for instance the problem with living in an area where there are not services is partly because there are not services, but it is partly a lifestyle choice as well for a lot of people. The point is we need to try and find the balance.
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
The full transcript may be read at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmtran/uc84-i/uc8402.htm
|On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB|