The report from the Public Accounts Committee on Increasing Passenger Rail Capacity is available for download. It’s interesting reading, if you like that sort of thing. But just in case you don’t, we read it for you.
It raises many issues, but one of them is about the railway industry and growth.
It’s item 6 of the Conclusions and Recommendations:
“The unique and complex structure of the rail industry makes it inherently cumbersome and expensive, and provides little external challenge to its vested interest in its own growth. The Department should conduct a fundamental review of the rail industry’s structure, to ensure better accountability and value for money, with the aim of reducing conflicts of interest, aligning efforts on maximising efficiency, and restraining the tendency to seek solutions through growth.”
In other words, rather then trying to solve existing problems by building a brand new railway across open countryside, maybe the DfT should think of some alternatives ways of solving the problems – like perhaps giving one of the ministers a remit for non-travel. Oh, they already have, that’s part of Norman Baker’s job.
Does the report have anything to say which is relevant to non-travel?
Tucked away in the answer to q42 is a factor which effects the decisions of commuters:
“Right at the moment, if an individual has the theoretical choice from their employer to do a day’s work from home, there is no cash consequence in terms of their travel costs if they are on an annual season ticket. If you were in a world in which the choice of when you travelled and the choice of whether you travelled fell straight through into the idea of ‘there is some financial incentive in this’, I think that would make a difference.”
Maybe season tickets will change over the next decade. Maybe the Oyster card scheme, in use in London, will be somehow extended so that when a commuter is thinking about working from home for a day he or she will really be saving their own money.
What will that have done to rail passenger demand in 15 years time?