Thursday, 3 May 2007

One variant of Dives and Lazarus

Over the next ten years the Department for Transport will receive over £1bn from First Great Western in franchise premium payments. That money can come from only once place: your pocket.

The payment is approximately the equivalent of a 15% tax on every ticket sale. If your season ticket costs £3,500 then £525 of it will go to the government; if your ticket for a weekend away costs £85 then £12.75 of it will go to the government. The question every customer of First Great Western should be asking is: what value am I getting from this charge?

So how will the money be used? No one but the Department for Transport knows; there is next to no transparency in how the government intends to use your money.

One thing it could be used for is to fund additional capacity. The Department has made much of its announcement of 1,000 additional carriages. But it has not detailed where these will be going or exactly when they will be introduced; and, it is quite possible that Greater Western will receive none of this new rolling stock. The point is that, at the moment, this is a promise with no credibility. It’s jam tomorrow.

Yet, the Department could, if it wanted, take action right now. It could set aside some of that £1bn and use it to allow First Great Western to keep its fleet of Adelante (class 180) trains. These are due to be withdrawn from service on Greater Western in December 2007 when additional capacity has been introduced through a combination of the HST fleet modernisation programme and additional HSTs entering service.

Keeping the 180s would help to reduce overcrowding even further than the planned capacity increases. It may also permit a cascading of rolling stock which would mean some of the older carriages in the former Wessex region could be replaced by newer trains – possibly class 165s from the Thames Valley routes. Having more stock to play with would also act as a buffer against disruption from train failures. All regions, from Maidenhead to Menheniot would feel the benefit.

This is a real and feasible solution to an increasingly frustrating problem and, most importantly, it is something that can be implemented by the end of this year – not at some unspecified point in the dim and distant future.

However, it is a solution that only the government can provide. But to ensure that the government gets the message it will take the commitment of passengers: each and every fare paying customer who funds the £1bn pouring into the government’s coffers needs to write and demand that their money is used to help provide a better service for the Great Western region and to keep the class 180s. They must make it clear that their suffering can no longer be ignored.


You can contact the Department for Transport by emailing the following people: (Secretary of State) (Undersecretary of State) (Director General DfT Rail Group) (Franchise Manager)

Do be polite in your communication but do not be afraid to express your views; remember Civil Servants and Ministers are there to serve the public and are funded by the taxes you pay!


Billyo said...

I have tried to e-mail Tom Harris before and that e-mail address (the same as the one on the DfT website) bounces straight back.

A deliberent ploy to avoid listening to the people who voted for him.

My last two letters to the DfT have been unanswered too, so good luck getting someone to pay any attention.

CJ Harrison said...

Thanks for letting me know.

I have not tried the email addresses yet, I only picked them up off the DfT and HoC sites. I will try to find alternatives and will update the list.

CJ Harrison said...

You could try his parliamentary email address:

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid the use of present tense on your home page doesn't make it clear these 15% payments are yet to materialise...

The annals of history are littered with grand promises of vast premium payments that failed to be delivered, for example both Virgin franchises which became management contracts and the recently failed GNER franchise.