Press release 26th August 2021

Short sighted rail companies shooting themselves in the foot.

New railway timetable proposals are a recipe for disaster, according to rail campaigners. The campaign group Railfuture claims that slimmer timetables will deter passengers from travelling, leading to a downward spiral.

“These proposals should be sending alarm bells to rail users and taxpayers.” said Chris Page, chairman of Railfuture. “There’s no evidence that leisure travel won’t bounce back after Covid, indeed we’re already hearing stories of trains crowded with leisure travellers, yet there will be significant cuts to trains both at off-peak times and peak times on many routes, when compared to the “pre Covid” timetable. In many cases half the trains are being slashed from the timetable. Many more journeys will now involve a change of train, which will lengthen journey times and make rail less attractive.”

“These proposals seem to display a lack of basic understanding of railway economics. Fixed costs in railways are high. The marginal costs of running more trains are relatively low. Experience tells us that greater frequency and through journey opportunities generates revenue in excess of the costs of operation. The rail industry needs to control its cost base to deal with the realities of the pandemic, but cutting services will lead to lower rail usage and declining revenue. Railways have to offer a package of travel that melds convenience, price, quality etc in an offering that will get people to use trains and not their cars. Rail industry finances will only be stabilised and restored by growing the revenue line, not lowering quality to cut costs. Have we learned nothing from the spiral of decline of Britain’s railways in the 1960s and 1970s? This is not just about rail users, vital as they are. Taxpayers will end up footing the bill for a railway where declining patronage is propped up by greater and greater subsidies.”

Two major train operators in Britain, South Western Railway and Scotrail, have published their timetable proposals for 2022, with others to follow. Railfuture is providing detailed feedback to both operators and our full responses will be published on the Railfuture website once submitted.

“The Government has made much of its commitment to carbon reduction and arresting climate change. Transport accounts for about 33% of all emissions in the country. A key part of reducing this is to encourage modal shift to lower carbon forms of transport. Railways are much more “carbon efficient” for both passenger and freight operation. We simply cannot understand how the Department for Transport, who are clearly instructing train operators to reduce costs, can reconcile the Government’s commitment to carbon reduction with the proposals to make rail less attractive to passengers. Build back better? We don’t think so.”

Notes to editors:

Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk

Follow Railfuture on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Railfuture

For further information and comment please contact:

Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389
media at railfuture.org.uk