Train fares

If on a whim I decided to go to Leeds on a weekday morning it would cost me £96.80 standard class to catch the off peak 11.05 am. If I could delay my journey for a month I could buy a ticket on the same train for just £22.95. If I went on the 11.35 in a month’s time it would cost me just £14.60.

If I wanted to go to Manchester it would cost me £80.60 standard class. If I wanted to go after 3.20pm it would cost me £164.50. If I book in advance to go to Manchester off peak in November it would cost me just £20.

Rail fares are bizarre. Half of them are regulated, mainly to try to prevent the rail industry overcharging for scarce commuter seats into London at the peaks. Regulation has not stopped the imposition of high fares on popular commuter services. The railway gives people huge discounts for buying tickets well in advance, charges the traveller buying a ticket on the day high prices, and imposes a simple cliff edge on fares with big increase in fares at around 3pm and a big drop around 7pm, with a similar peak in the morning.

This system leaves commuters feeling they pay more than their fair share of a heavily subsidised industry. It leads to heavily overcrowded trains on popular routes on the first train after the ending of the peak fare, and still leaves the main commuter lines with insufficient capacity. It clearly fails to maximise revenues or sell the many empty seats I see on many of the trains I use outside the London and Reading area commuter services.

It is curious that the very low advance fares are not more successful in selling off peak seats on long distance trains. Maybe they are insufficiently known. Maybe there is simply too much capacity on these routes. It is also curious that many pay the high single and return fares charged if you buy on the day of travel, given the high premium charged for late purchase.

What seems likely is a revised pattern of fares and service provision could improve seat sales, reduce costs, and give commuters a fairer deal. Can the rail industry rise to that challenge?

The complex system which fails to deliver enough seats on busy routes at popular times and provides many unsold empty seats elsewhere is a reminder of how price regulation can both be well intended and unsuccessful. We need more competition in the railway, to innovate on services and bring in more popular fares and services.

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96 Comments

  1. Richard1
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Socialism in action – imagine living in Corbynland where a lot of other sectors were subject to such regulation! Anyone who wants to know what it would be like can look at Venezuela Cuba or even Zimbababwe. A root and branch review of the rail industry is needed the objective of which should be to ask how can it be made more competitive. The review should include the state-owned, wasteful and useless Network Rail. Meanwhile let’s not throw good money after bad and waste £50bn+ (£100bn in the end?) on the unneeded vanity project HS2. Better to spend a fraction of the money on road improvemets and getting the sort of broadband services available in countries like Hong Kong Singapore and South Korea (Corbyn would probably think North Korea is a better model).

    • Tad Davison
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      I agree.

      As things stand, I don’t use the railways because they are way too costly and inconvenient as they don’t take me door-to-door. And as John rightly indicates, if a situation suddenly arose where I needed to go somewhere at a moment’s notice, I’d pay through the nose for it.

      My car is far cheaper and by a country mile. I can get 60 MPG without trying, even around town, and well over 70 MPG at motorway speeds on a run with four adult occupants – and she’s a big old gal!

      Perhaps the government ought to urge people to buy newer, cleaner, less-polluting cars, and give us the good road network we motorists have been paying for, for ages, only to see that money frittered away on other things by politicians who cannot wait to spend other people’s money on their pet own pet projects, often with a marginal, if not a very dubious benefit to the rest of society.

      Tad

      • Mark
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        As I noted the other day, motorways and the principal A roads are the FIFTH priority of the ORR (presumably as agreed with the DfT).

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        It is too late for a ‘good road network’ – at least in London and the South East. Almost every time I am about to embark on a journey involving the M4, M3 or M25 – I check the traffic before leaving and see lots of orange and red on the blue lines of the motorway – showing heavy and standstill traffic. This can be at any time of the day – rush hour seems to be all the time now.

        Too many people packed into too small an area with too many people commuting – as the days of large populations working in local factories are behind us.

        • Anonymous
          Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          Mike – Our population is about to get a whole lot bigger and the lights are about to go out too.

          They’ve cut the police and the army. I think the last thing people are going to be worried about is ticket prices.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          True, and still the lefties want to pack more people in, with little or no regard for the overall standard and quality of life.

          I have said before that it’s gerrymandering on a massive scale, intended purely to increase their client state. But what of Mr Chameleon, surely he doesn’t want that to happen?

          Tad

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Who will invest in building & letting out property with the prospect of Corbyn (and indeed even Osborne) cheating them out of the returns?

    • petermartin2001
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Richard1,

      Have you ever studied the Singaporean system? Its not free market capitalism as you and I would understand it. It’s a form of State Capitalism. There’s really no other word for it. Jeremy Corbyn’s idea for a NIB may seem radical in the UK. The Singaporeans have always operated this way.

      You might like to take a look at Temasek Holdings. An investment company with $300 billion of assets owned mainly by the Government of Singapore. The Singaporeans don’t tie themselves up in knots on the public/private issue. To them capitalism is State run! They don’t understand how capitalism can function effectively without government control.

      Maybe it’s a cultural thing and wouldn’t work elsewhere – I don’t know. There’s a lot to like, and dislike, about Singapore but they certainly know how to make money there!

      • Anonymous
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        Peter – Singapore’s state-capitalism. Sounds good.

        Capitalism on its own leads to corruption and cartels. Capitalism ordered by a democratically elected state should lead to a properly functioning society.

      • Richard1
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Yes Singapore is an authoritarian state with a quasi-democracy. But it has a sovereign investment vehicle because it runs balance budgets / surpluses. With state & tax / GDP ratios of c. 20% it is firmly in the ‘capitalist’ camp!

        • petermartin2001
          Posted September 22, 2015 at 2:55 am | Permalink

          Richard1,

          I do keep trying to explain the mechanism of sectoral balances in the economy. Singapore can only have a surplus on its internal budget because it runs a surplus of exports to the tune of 18% of GDP.

          That’s fine for Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark etc (no doubt you approve of all their economic policies) to do that but that’s only possible if countries like the USA and UK run large trade deficits. Trade surpluses and deficits across the world do have to sum to zero for obvious reasons.

          Reply Once again you ignore the private sector balances

          • petermartin2001
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            JR,

            I don’t believe I’m ignoring the private sector balances. Yes, in theory, if Singaporeans saved at a greater rate than 18% of GDP their govt would have to run a budget deficit. But is this likely?

            In Germany, we do have a situation where private sector savings (7% of GDP) almost exactly balance their export surplus. So the govt budget almost exactly balances too.

            In the UK there is a trade deficit of around 5.5%. Again in theory the government could run a balanced budget if the population desaved to the same extent. ie Spent their savings or borrowed from the banks. That might be possible for a year or two, if there is credit boom in progress, but not otherwise, and not sustainably. But, George Osborne, for some reason, thinks otherwise. He thinks he can balance the budget.

            But the arithmetic of the situation would indicate that he hasn’t got a hope of doing that and that he’ll just push the economy into deep recession if he tries.

    • Peter A
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      I think it would be fare (apologies) to suggest that the reason why so many commuters rail (couldn’t help myself) against the TOCs is that they often have to stand as, despite the fact they travel 5days a week, seats are not allocated to them.

      It is they through their extortionately priced monthly and annual tickets, who pay for the railway. If they were allocated seats then services could be better planned and TOCS would doubtless often have to charge less for on the day tickets and short booked tickets as they would probably be standing only.

  2. Martin
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I can think of plenty of private sector flights where similar fares and empty capacity exits. I expect the M4 is quiet at 7AM Sunday as well!

    Why is it that you pick on the railway and never the unused motorways? Expensive country lanes are often even quieter too. Perhaps more publicity will get them choked with traffic 24 hours a day seven days a week. (I wonder if Conservative rural voters will approve of that?)

    Air fares would be cheaper if the Conservatives stopped wasting London council taxpayers money on Boris-Marx-on-the-foggy-marsh International Airport.

    Maybe Mr Corbyn could put Boris’s annoying bikes into the private sector?

    Reply Taxpayers have no extra costs if the motorway is empty for a few hours, nor if train tracks are empty as they are for much of the time, but do have extra cost if trains are running around empty

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Road are not moving when not in use, nearly empty trains are and need fuel and staff. Hardly a sensible comparison.

      • Anonymous
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic: Most transport runs ’empty’ for a good proportion of its time in transit.

        This includes mum’s car on the way to picking up the kids from school. You don’t realise how many lorries and planes are empty because you don’t see inside them.

      • Martin
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Given that roads are built with borrowed money (government deficit as it is known) then there is still an asset that is not paying its way and racking up interest charges.

        Reply Train track is less used than roads and is the analogy with the roads. Empty trains are different as they cost money and are avoidable.

      • Tom William
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        But when lines are not carrying passengers they are often also carrying freight.

    • petermartin2001
      Posted September 22, 2015 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Trains do sometimes have to” run around empty” to get the rolling stock to the right place for when its needed. Then there may be a requirement that an operator runs a certain number of trains as part of their licence.

      There’s sometimes a requirement for “ghost trains” too just to keep the line open for legal reasons! So parliament could perhaps do its bit to keep costs down by taking another look at the legislation on railways. It’s not all about public v private.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    It is some time since I ran a railway (Railroad Tycoon – highly recommended). When I did we were completely unregulated. The lesson I learned – the hard way – is that if you treat your customers well, replace the stock regularly and respect the economics of a line (not much passenger traffic in the deserts of Africa, but lots and lots in southern England), then you become rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
    If, on the oner hand, you do not respect the economics, if you do not treat your customers well and if you do not replace the stock regularly, you are relieved, after a serious warning, of being in charge of a railway.
    I do not know how many times the Commissioner, Violeta Bulk, in charge of DG MOVE has played this excellent game. But she is in ultimate charge. Under her comes Clare Perry for our government, but how much she, too, has played, I do not know.

    • Mark
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Devizes (Perry’s seat) has no railway station – just a lengthy flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Trains by, their very nature and the nature of the demand, will be empty much of the time. As they return from town on busy commuting routes. On commuting routes generally they start empty, slowly fill up and return almost empty. They then are empty for most of the middle of the day and night and do the same in reverse in the evenings. Average occupancy can be less than 25%. Though, observed by the commuter, they mainly see packed and crowded trains.

    The complex confusion marketing of tickets is rather absurd how many people want to fix the times of their journeys months in advance? It also causes congestion at the ticket queues. It is all designed to over charge business traveller and those who have to travel while trying to temps other more price sensitive travellers with very restrictive offers.

    Outside London a car is nearly always cheaper and far more flexible (often greener too), even for one person. This despite the huge under investment in roads. Coaches are nearly always cheaper too.

    Reduce the subsidies and let all the transport systems compete on a level playing field. Other than for some commuter routes and intercity routes the trains will find it hard to compete as they are inherently inefficient and inflexible.

    What exactly is the justification for huge train subsidy and no vat or fuel tax for them when cars are so hugely over taxed at every turn? They do not even have environmental advantages, especially when the end connections are also included.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      I see that the archbishop of Canterbury has offered to host one or two refugee families in a four-bedroom cottage on the grounds of his Lambeth Palace residence in London.

      So why has he been keeping this much needed London property empty in the first place or what will happen to the current residents? If empty why has he not rented it out before? What about the rest of this huge and under used building and the extensive grounds? You could get load of caravans in in the garden or even a nice tower block of flats!

      Just the usual pathetic, gesture politics from the Archbishop.

      • Ex-expat Colin
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        How come he didn’t take in the Romanians etc. around Marble Arch and the homeless in London…himself? The Pope similar…all tokens.

        Go out into the street and invite anyone to stay…and their family. And then?

        Its a decent thing to do perhaps, but would you know the consequences. And what happens if you have to chuck them out. Oh..its only a couple of nights…who knows?

        BBC WS last night with plenty of skills voices (skilled invaders?) with +ve advice and coming our way from…anywhere? Only one female voice attempting to apply logic about how things have to be done…process no less.

        Anybody know what business Syria has a reputation for like made in syria etc? Don’t ever see it.

        • Mark
          Posted September 21, 2015 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          Most of the refugees are not from Syria.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Interesting to read of how the car companies design & programme their cars to obtain good results just on the EU fuel use/carbon emissions tests. Yet on real roads the actual fuel use has very little to do with these tests. Indeed, as the car has been designed to score well mainly on these tests, the fuel use in normal use can then actually be far worse that if the car had been designed for its real purpose. Reliability can also be adversely affected due to over complexity needed to pass the tests.

        Different users anyway have very different needs some tow things, some do lots of motorways, some just very short journeys, some very low mileage so economy is less important anyway.

        Top down, all will be the same, command economy & misguided EU regulation. Once again causing huge harm, pushing up vehicle costs, giving inferior cars, wasting money and benefiting virtually no one but the EU bureaucrats and lawyers.

      • Bill
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        I beg to differ. Welby has at least backed up his own words by actions.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          A totally superficial and token action. Doubtless with photo ops to follow. Perhaps if he put 100 caravans in the garden and opened up all the rooms of the palace it might be rather less token.

    • Mark
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I discovered that flying is not only cheaper but also faster even for a journey such as Exeter to London: if you have to pay congestion charge and parking fees in London it can work out cheaper than going by car too.

  5. Mick Anderson
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    There seems to be a basic assumption by those who set the price that train is the *only* way to travel. How else can you explain the massive premium for on-the-day tickets?

    It’s true that if you must to go to a particular town at the last minute and it has to be by train then you are stuck with whatever they condescend to sell you. However, for most of us it’s simply easier and more flexible to save a lot of money and take a car. I can drive from here (near the south coast) to Manchester and back for far less than the ticket cost. Perhaps it would be more relaxing by train, but I find not parting with an extra £100 for the round trip rather more appealing. In my case, the extra time required for changes to go around or through London eat massively into any travel-time saved. If I could book two months ahead, I’d have enough time to prevent the reason for my travelling there in the first place!

    They should learn from the package holiday industry who are in a similar position, also having to commit a year ahead in order to offer a particular hotel on a specific week. The prices drop at the last minute to try and make *something* back from an unsold commitment. What is a railway if not a massive long-term commitment?

    I appreciate that you can only sell a holiday once, and that you can almost always cram more cattle commuters on a fully occupied train. However, the formerly-full train will now be near-empty as it goes back the other way. This is the one that you could encourage people to take by undercutting the alternatives. It might even put people into the habit of using trains.

  6. margaret
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    This is why many people who have time off from work and would like to go for a weekends shop or an art gallery on a whim, go by car .It is not worth spending so much for an outing just to get there. Life can be tedious planning a schedule for leisure as well as business , unless it is a prepaid holiday or similar.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Indeed rail journeys take far too long to plan and are far too restrictive and inflexible. Just take the car, leave when you want, stop off where you want, listen to what you want (without endless daft announcements) and go door to door with all your luggage and passengers.

      The train rarely make much sense, other than for commuting to London and a few intercity lines. The only advantage is you can sometimes do some work on them between the idiotic announcements if you can get a seat and table that is.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Rail fares are bewildering and expensive.

    During WW2 they had to make the railway reactive to the country’s dire needs and as efficient as possible – so they nationalised it.

    BR had its faults but who can disagree that railways have got more expensive since privatisation ?

    Nationalisation wasn’t about bringing us a more efficient railway. It was about selling off the family silver and raising funds for a country in trouble.

    • forthurst
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      “During WW2 they had to make the railway reactive to the country’s dire needs and as efficient as possible – so they nationalised it.”

      The railways were nationalised in 1947 having become bankrupt; the government had given free travel passes to anyone travelling on the public service and discouraged anyone else from travelling anywhere at all. Under the Transport Act, Road haulage was also nationalised, including Pickfords, the removals business whose bills for breakages would nicely balance their invoices. Thomas Cooke the World’s first Travel Agency, became an exclusive vendor of a depressing array of faded railway tickets.

      The Attlee government was the worst Labour government ever and the country still suffers the after effects of its doctrinaire Marxist nationalisations and the incompetance of several its ignorant, uneducated Ministers.

      • Anonymous
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        At the start of hostilities the railways came under government control and the Big 4’s managements combined to form one central organisation.

        The railways were paid from the Treasury, though not enough to cover the true costs of running them. Nationalisation in all but name.

        They were in such poor repair after the war that only formal nationalisation could keep them going.

      • Tom William
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Before the telephone service was denationalised you might have to wait up to six months to get a new line.

  8. MikeP
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    The airlines cope with demand far more successfully than rail because they require everyone to have tickets beforehand, even standby passengers who aren’t guaranteed a seat. This allows them to either “bucket shop” any spare capacity well ahead or take whole flights out of the schedule early on and concentrate demand onto fewer flights. This is most marked when flights are cancelled after snow; it makes the news but most passengers still get to their destination, but on full flights.
    The TOCs don’t seem to have anything like the same level of marketing success to fill off-peak trains but worse still they are obliged (presumably?) to run every train in the schedule, regardless of demand, just in case someone turns up needing that service, maybe with connections. In theory a train could run with just a single passenger and collect no-one else on the way. It’s time to thin out the off peak schedule or get much better at promoting spare capacity. as for fares, yes completely bizarre.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Aircraft are just far more flexible than trains. Trains are stuck to certain very costly and fixed railway routes that can be blocked by trees, unions, crashes & floods. Planes can fly to and from any airports as the demand changes day to day and throughout the seasons of the year. They can be used almost anywhere in the World should demand change.

      • Anonymous
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        Why did they close Penzance airport then ?

  9. Douglas Carter
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    ‘It is curious that the very low advance fares are not more successful in selling off peak seats on long distance trains. Maybe they are insufficiently known.’

    Whilst I understand the subjective question behind that, I think it illustrates the culture of the Rail Companies and their Executive Staff quite well, in particular that it shows that the continuity culture towards the travelling public hasn’t really changed significantly since the days of British Rail.

    Among others, cheap ‘Apex’ fares booked well in advance seem to be a generous gift given by the Rail Companies. However, relatively few travelling individuals know whether they’re going to be in a position to make exactly that journey on exactly that occasion. In detail culture it’s a kind of declaration by the Rail Companies that the passenger is expected to adjust their life to the convenience of the service – rather than the other way around, widely understood under non-subsidised capitalism – that the service provider adjusts their sales pitch and product to the needs and wishes of the customer.

    I’d understand the sentiment you’d likely hold, John, that additional regulation under the current strictures wouldn’t necessarily be helpful, but I’d welcome an augmented system of oversight which pesters the Rail Companies to act as proper competing bodies which actively seek the approval of their users, rather than (as it seems right now) to grudgingly provide the least they can get away with at the highest cost. In particular, across many years (including those of British Rail where repeat fare rises in one single year were commonplace) the excuse for increasing fares has been …’to maintain\improve the service to the customer’… with no qualifying detail as to what they intend to improve or maintain. I’d say that needs to be looked at more closely.

    Perhaps it’s the simple fact that the industry works on fixed, predictable steel tracks that Management culture thinking within that industry cannot break itself free from that same path-of-least-resistance thinking? If that were true, I’d say it was ably assisted by a Transport model that – no matter its strict purpose – has been ineffective in creating a spirit of true interest in the customer, in their needs and how to respond – and how to do it at less cost to the travelling individual?

    Finally, possibly a suggestion for George Osborne and the next outing of the Red Box, the ability for commuters to claim relief on their public transport costs if it rises beyond a specific proportion of their income? There is a phenomenon known as ‘fuel poverty’ – how about ’employment-related transport poverty’? In that, possibly the routes under which people need to claim relief can be easily identified and an investigation held into how specific Rail Operators can be seen to charge fares (which are already subject to subsidy in any case) which seem to impoverish its regular travellers?

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      People dislike booking small trips in advance. Sure. They’ll do it for a one-off holiday, but they won’t organise themselves for minor trips.

      I’m sure the railway planners would be keen to fill seats and to be seen improving company revenues – the fact is that horses can be taken to water.

      Many scheduled services are written into franchise contracts to serve local councils and user groups and these must be run whether the TOC can make them profitable or not. They want bums on seats but if people won’t come what can they be expected to do ? Create events for people to go to ? Given total freedom TOCs might not choose the run them.

      • Douglas Carter
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        …’whether the TOC can make them profitable or not…’…

        …’Given total freedom TOCs might not choose the run them.’..

        Then they aren’t ‘Companies’. They are simply recipients of inappropriately allocated amounts of Taxpayer subsidy.

        …’but [paying passengers] won’t organise themselves..’…

        It’s not for paying customers of well-subsidised services to ‘organise themselves’. It’s for the well-subsidised service provider to identify need and gaps in the market, to attract the passenger and provide the service.

        Attracting custom is a day-to-day norm for Tesco, Morrisons and Lidl. If the Rail operating providers lack the simple competence to recognise the obligations, then let them step aside.

        And yes – operating a Supermarket to attract custom and to make a profit is exactly the same as operating a means of transport to achieve the same thing.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    If you have a car for which you use for most journeys you are likely to be unfamiliar with the current train ticket system.

    If a situation arises where taking the train would be an option I shudder to think how long it would take to work out timings and prices. You would also have to work out how to get to the station, and if you used your car where you would be able to park and how much it would cost you. At the destination station you would have to work out how to get from the station to where you actually wanted to go to. How long would you spend trawling the internet for answers before you gave it up as a bad job and took the car?

    Taking the car into London is clearly an unappealing prospect. For those of us who are not regular traveler into London it has become a foreign land best avoided.

  11. Nigel
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    The hotel and airline industries use sophisticated computer programs to determine the optimum price at which a room or seat is sold. They seem to work on the basis that an empty seat or room left unoccupied is revenue lost. I do not understand why the rail operators cannot develop some similar system.

  12. JoeSoap
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Well, Easyjet seem to manage ok with all these constraints and more.
    We probably have a legacy view that rail tickets are reasonably cheap and consistent, so people haven’t got into Easyjet mode. That coupled with a legacy uselessness within the rail industry to innovate and market themselves.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Joe Soap – I think Richard Branson might like to hear about your ideas on marketing.

      • Peter Parsons
        Posted September 22, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        I think you’ll find that the advance fares like Apex fares are sold in exactly the low cost airline model – fixed number of seats available and they get more expensive the closer it gets to the day of travel.

  13. miami.mode
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    You seem to be missing the point on commuter rail traffic. Tell these people to use a car or bus or get a job that doesn’t involve the commute and you will then see that it is a fair price based on supply and demand and convenience of getting exactly where they want to be. Railway infrastructure is hugely complex and expensive and needs to be paid for.

    To get a Leeds train from London at 5.15 pm it will have to have left Leeds before 3 pm so will obviously not have too many passengers. You also have to bear in mind where the drivers live and their hours of work as the last thing you want is an exhausted driver on a 2 hour trip. You are trying to simplify a very difficult operation. When I have travelled from St Pancras to Gatwick I am always impressed by the speed of the train and the complexity of rail traffic but I rarely travel by rail so my view may be jaundiced.

    Cheap off-peak and advance fares are a bargain for those that are organised and can use them so don’t spoil it.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Miami – The trains also have to end at designated points for fuelling, servicing, washing, cleaning and safety exams.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      The UK is a tiny country compared to France, Germany, Italy for length of rail journeys, drivers swap over at key stations like Crewe to keep journey lengths down and take breaks don’t they?
      There are better examples on the continent of railway efficiencies we need to look at the best of them as any competitive business would.

  14. Pauline Jorgensen
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Even with the punitive aviation taxes in place at the moment it is often cheaper to fly to Manchester.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Indeed well flying is generally cheaper than trains as you do not need an expensive (inflexible and fixed) track, just a plane and two strips of tarmac/concrete.

  15. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I have found nationalised and private running of the UKs railed system poor.

    Introducing competition should in theory lead to overall cheaper fares.Such competition by and large has not succeeded in the marketplace. We find major retailers honourably providing acceptable wages and pensions being undermined by Local Authorities providing ways for less competent retailers with little or no pension provision to set up business ( competition ) and undercut them. Cheaper prices. Redundancies ( because the Local Authorities’ personnel do not understand how business and job provision works. Nor do they understand that cheaper prices and in the wider field cheaper commodities can actually destroy jobs and the businesses creating them.

    Running alongside all this is that Rail and Road on this tiny island are by necessity in conflict both at the business level and more importantly at the practical level. The UK cannot have “an integrated transport system “. It is a silly fairytale.

    Aside from this: British people in general are no longer competent to run even a whelk stall. The late Alexander Zinoviev in his “Yawning Heights” gave the most detailed and logical analysis of a society and its interactions. Yes he was aiming at Soviet society but like so many Russian books of the time, his criticisms and analyses throw light on the West too. He stated that the USSR ” made people, good people, into liars “in their day-to-day existences out of their own necessity.

    No British worker would keep his job very long if he told a customer the truth of what he was selling; if he pointed to the cheapest cut of meat; the biscuits on the shelf with the longest sell-by-date; the need to count the icecubes and insist on just one or two in a soft drink sold in a pub to get best value. Of course the perversion of previously good and honest people in insurance and banking by ” the culture” is well known but even now not remedied. If there is a remedy.

    I was frightened, genuinely , for the first time in my life last night by what I was reading. No not a tale of zombies and werewolves. It was the explanation by a leading and important economics supporter of Mr Corbyn outlining Corbynomics.

    He stated that he had been falsely accused of denying the existence of “the taxpayer”. He explained that because we live in “a community” it is natural that a government levies taxes to provide for that “community”. And that the idea that some people on the Right argue that paying high taxes is bad is ridiculous. He wrote that tax money does not belong to the “taxpayer” but that whatever level of tax a government decides is right and good; for, that money is automatically government money and does not belong to the “taxpayer”. He concluded that the tax-payer keeps all the money which belongs to him. The money left AFTER paying taxes is the only money which he has ever owned. So, he concluded the “taxpayer” DOES exist
    All Comments at the bottom of his blog fully supported his conclusion.

    Let no-one be under any illusion that it is a satirical exaggeration to say that there are many people of standing here in the UK who would wish to create the most dictatorial communist dictatorship on our land. As Zinoviev and his contemporary Solzhenitsyn warned: “It starts with the Lie “

    • petermartin2001
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      I think you might be referring to Prof Richard Murphy? He was saying, as far as I understand him, that after taxpayers have paid their tax it is the government’s money?

      Well maybe. They usually put it in the shredder (usually digitally) and recreate new money is my understanding of how the system works. But, it certainly isn’t my money after it’s left my account. So it was just a statement of the obvious. IMO.

      But, in a democracy I do get a vote and can argue my case like anyone else. That’s the main thing.

    • Bill
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of the joke that went the rounds in the Soviet era. A group of men were sitting lazily in a factory somewhere in wilds of Siberia. They fiddled the figures for their output and were as idle as they dared. As one of them said, ‘they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work’. That is how it is in the communist system, and that is why it failed to compete in the post-war period.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        When there was a clear alternative on the other side of the iron curtain the capitalists of western Europe had to be on their best behaviour and show to everyone that the system could work for everyone. They had to “compete”.

        And it did. Workers had good wages, received much better holidays that their American counterparts, there was free education, good health services and there were jobs for everyone that wanted them in most EU countries.

        Fast forward to 2015, 25 years after the collapse of the soviet system, and we see the difference! This is what happens when there’s no competition!

  16. Colin
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Open access on all routes. Do it now.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Colin – If you think a railway can be run by coach operators then you are mistaken.

      For one thing there are relatively few trains in the country and those there are can only be bid for by big players. the limited supply over demand for them makes them expensive.

      Then there are access charges to the track but, more importantly, the delay penalties which must be paid out to all other operators if a train breaks down.

      An amateur operator running on limited costs would go bust within a day – if they hadn’t killed someone first.

  17. Bert Young
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Fortunately I do not use the rail system . On the few occasions I have thought of going by rail somewhere I gave up – the pricing system defied all logic ; from Dr. JR’s post today the examples given are laughable – how could anyone design a pricing system with so many variables !? It’s time for a serious review of the whole rail network .

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Bert – Actually it’s time for a serious and urgent review of our immigration and asylum policy.

      Nothing else should take priority higher than this.

      This is our generation’s Battle of Britain moment but from the amount of distractions – rugby, Corbyn, ticket prices – you wouldn’t think so.

      Britain is about to undergo massive and catastrophic change. Oh, and the lights are going to go out too.

      Thank god the politicians don’t work in transport. There’d be dead bodies piled up everywhere.

    • CdBrux
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      If you don’t like similar pricing systems then I hope you don’t fly either!

  18. JJE
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we could look to see how things are run in other countries. I don’t know of anywhere in Europe where the ticketing is run as stupidly and deceitfully as here. Mr. Corbyn will gain a lot of support in his proposals to reduce this nonsense, if not for renationalisation. But if that comes the train operators will have only themselves to blame.

    For comparison I just booked a standard return on the high speed AVE from Madrid to Córdoba next week peak time for £72 via the excellent Loco2 website.

    • JJE
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I should add that I was able to print my Spanish tickets at home as opposed to being forced to queue at a ticket machine to collect them as in this country.

      • Hefner
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        I can report the same facilities for train tickets from the French SNCF or the German Deutsche Bahn. After all a train ticket is not so different from a plane ticket. How comes airline companies can do it, and not the UK train companies?

        It is simply outrageous that here in Britain every time something is related to computer facilities, its implementation is usually of very poor quality (see BT for telephone and/or internet or the gas-electricity websites, or some of the bank websites too often in the news, or the so “user-friendly” HMRC website).

        I keep being amused at the usual song and dance about “the UK at the forefront of technology”, as more often than not, yes, the UK is indeed among the first to implement a new technology, but seems unable to make it work properly for its users.

        Too many PPEs, not enough engineers? Could more women engineers, following the example of the new president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Naomi Climer, make a difference in the future?

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          The percentage of females studying physics at A level is about 20% and Further Maths about 30%.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        Yes. That’s my experience too. Then if the ticket machine is out of action…

        But the main problem is if you have to buy tickets for someone else, like your children. You’ve either got to go with them to the station to collect the tickets or lend them your credit card for verification.

        There’s just no need for it. If I can print out an airline ticket and boarding card online why not a train ticket too?

      • CdBrux
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        A good point. Yesterday I took the train from Norwich to London (£17.50 advance ticket which I thought decent value, train quite full) and I was able to print the ticket in advance, so at least one train company has caught up with technology in this respect!

  19. Mactheknife
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Rail companies base their pricing on work hours travel i.e. too and from work and the assumption that much of this is paid by the employer, which is often untrue. I guess the pricing model also takes in the more empty trains in off peak where they may run at a loss.

    There is plenty of competition in my area, but remarkably tickets, whether peak or off peak or even advanced do not seem to vary much in price between them. Is this the result of lax regulation, not enough regulation or good old price fixing ?

  20. Chris
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Rail fares have risen to exorbitant levels, and increasing each year, because the government is determined to shift the burden of payment from itself to the taxpayer, in order to reduce its own expenditure. Rail fares will continue to rise significantly if the Conservative government keeps on this course.
    Also the organisation/structure of the rail system is tightly defined and controlled by the EU in its Directives. To quote a West Midlands MEP, who sits on the Transport committee in Brussels. “As long as we remain members of the European Union, Britain is simply not allowed to do this (Corbyn proposal to renationalise). Ever since the First Railway Directive back in 1998, the EU has dictated that all member states must provide competition and allow independent companies to apply for non-discriminatory track access.”

    Reply The government is trying to cut taxpayer subsidy, not increase it. Fares are high and subsidised because rail costs are too high and too few seats sold

  21. Lifelogic
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Indeed and the advance tickets are very restricted and the restrictions are not even easy very clear.

    These cheap fares seem there mainly so that the rail companies can point to them when everyone complains over the expensive ones.

  22. Bob Eldridge
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    We are on the verge of driverless cars. That will wipe out the railways for long distance travel. Instead of HS2, lay a new motorway along its route. With driverless cars that will be far more effecient. Trains are 18 cetury..

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Trains are just coaches with the huge disadvantage that they need a dedicated and totally inflexible track.

    • Handbags
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      You’ve got it.

      It’s over for railways – and buses too – and in time it’s probably over for most private motoring too.

      Why own a car when you can just dial-up a driverless one when needed?

      No traffic lights, no roundabouts, no road signs, no speed limits, no parking restrictions, no customer car parks required – just an industrial estate where the driverless cars can be based when not in use.

      It will happen.

  23. Mark
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The problem for our railways is that they are so expensive to run – 40% more than comparable railways in Europe, we’re told. They have to secure the revenue and subsidies somehow, yet nothing seems to be done about lowering costs. I find it remarkable that railway usage has continued to increase, despite the fares.

    Perhaps some of the answer lies in the way that the Highways Agency network is regularly hobbled by 20 mile sections of roadworks, where at most a quarter of a mile may see active work, unnecessarily lowered speed limits in “managed motorway” sections, lengthy delays caused by investigations whenever there is an accident (and lack of adequate diversion signage before motorists join the motorway in the first place), the effects of permitting speed limited vehicles to overtake, blocking lanes and creating reaction braking traffic jams, etc.

  24. petermartin2001
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I quite like the cheap fares which are possible but sometimes do take a bit of finding online. One tip would be to buy two tickets (for partial journeys) rather than one especially if travelling via London. That usually makes it cheaper.

    There’s always going to be a problem with commuter traffic. Whether it’s by road or rail. We have a huge demand for traffic into the city for a couple of hours in the early morning. Then, for a couple of hours in the late afternoon there’s a huge demand for traffic out of the city.

    The solutions are obvious. Try to plan cities for people to live in rather than just work in. Allow workers more flexitime. Maybe 4 x 9 hour days rather than 5 x 7 hour days etc. Encourage the idea of working at home via the net.

    • Jagman84
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      Have you ever tried building luxury cars at home, via the internet? It is not too successful. Not everyone pretends to do work in an office. Some of us have real jobs! Flexitime? If only!

      • Mark
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think car workers tend to commute by train. They live locally. I can recall large numbers of bicycles at MG, Abingdon, and Cowley in times gone by. I encountered the early morning shift arriving at Maclaren recently – by car.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        @Jagman84

        I do realise that isn’t possible for everyone. My job has always involved a mixture of both paper and practical work FYI. In recent years the technology has allowed me to do the former anywhere I’ve got internet access.

        I’m relatively lucky but some employers do require physical attendance at the place of employment 5 day a week and between certain set hours.

  25. English Pensioner
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The aim was to take advantage of business people who generally travel at short notice. But it now hits most people who travel at relatively short notice.
    Friends rang us from Cornwall “Why don’t you come down for a week, the weather’s looking good. If you don’t want to drive, we’ll pick you up at Plymouth.”
    I’m no longer keen on long distance driving and I’d have loved to have gone by train, but enquiring about the prices, for the two of us it was many times the price of my petrol costs. Plus quite a bit more to get to Paddington. So we went by car, taking things easy, changing drivers at each service area and stopping for a decent lunch away from the motorway. Probably more enjoyable (if travel is ever enjoyable) than the train.
    But what became clear is that for a family with children, the rail cost would have been out of the question and travel by car is now their only option.
    So rather than spend money on the railways, why not spend it on the roads which people can afford and want to use?

    • Chris
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      We do that journey too, EP, and have come to the same conclusions. The rail fares are exorbitant making it out of the question.

    • petermartin2001
      Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      Have you checked the “trainline” website ? Paddington to Plymouth £36.50 single on Sunday 18th of October would be the best deal leaving at 8.27 am

      You’ll find tickets for the same price in the evenings, on other dates, but the arrival times are quite late.

      You can get a coach ticket for less than half this price if you prefer roads.

  26. Curmudgeon
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Most people simply can’t commit to booking rail journeys weeks in advance. If it’s a nice day, I might want to take my family on a day out, but no way can I predict that.

    It’s also an under-appreciated factor that, very often, the decision to use train rather than car is due to the ability to consume alcohol.

  27. Bill
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    It is the commuter trains that are the problem, especially since it is possible to buy a season ticket from say, Haywards Heath, and find it impossible to secure a seat day after day. The only way to be sure is to book First Class and pay a premium.

    It should not be beyond the wit of man to sell season tickets for particular seats and then sell cheaper season tickets for those who are prepared to stand.

    As I understand it, the ticket is actually evidence of a contract between the buyer and the seller by which the seller undertakes to transport the buyer from A to B. The method of transport i.e. whether seated or standing or on a standby bus is not relevant to the nature of the contract.

  28. Daisy
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    How can there ever be effective competition in a system which can only support one service on one track at any one time?

  29. Jon
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Is the answer in the way our National Grid for electricity works??

    We can’t get true competition on the rail so what can we do? There isn’t the option of boarding a selection of different train operators to a destination.

    What is a relative constant that the rail companies compete with is road.

    If we accept that we want franchises for the routes so we get some investment in the trains, comp fort, service and punctuality when not subjest to Network Rail, then what can be done?

    Rail is not privatised, it’s a hybrid system, an amalgam of two or more that requires another level of oversight and co ordination.

    When it comes to ticketing and prices that is absent. So maybe the improvement resides a national co ordinated ticketing system like the National Grid.

    The National Grid brings together private and state power suppliers and charges a single price to the end customer. It also meets demand but doesn’t under shoot or over supply by much!

    For rail that would require an IT literate network managing the ticketing and prices.

    I think there is room for franchising within that network. What do you think ?

    Reply You can run different services from different companies on the same track. Where that happens things improve.

    • Jon
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Also this is a United Kingdom. So those that would want to nationalise the whole network want is just about co ordinating it all and making it efficient.

      If there is a national ticketing network on supply and demand serving the whole of the UK rather than each individual franchise then it would serve the UK.

    • Jon
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes if they were allowed to compete at bigger stations rather than just one company being able to take people from a particular station. Can see how that could improve things.

      • Peter Parsons
        Posted September 22, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        Or indeed make things worse. Can you imagine the frustration of having to wait on a platform because you bought a ticket with Train Company A and the first 2 trains which turn up to the destination you want to go to are from Train company B, so you have to either wait or pay twice. That is a consequence of having competing companies running trains on the same route.

        Rail is infrastructure, same as roads. Its purpose is to faciliate economic activity, the efficent movement of goods, services and people in a reliable fashion at reasonable cost, just as the roads should be. Somehow in this country we seem to have lost sight of that in the UK and seem to view rail as an economic activity in its own right.

        Competition on the railways isn’t the solution to the problem, it is a cause of the current problems with too many different players all having to negotiate with each other (track access, rolling stock, delays), which adds a large bureaucratic overhead, thus introducing inefficiencies.

        Reply You could always book with the right company for the timetable, or as with competing airlines there would doubtless be ways of switching tickets.

        • Peter Parsons
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          The problem with booking to the timetable is that trains frequently fail to run to it, often significantly, particularly for journeys such as Reading to Paddington when the trains have usually started their journey several hours earlier.

          With regards to switching tickets, for both rail and air my experience is that the cheapest tickets are non-refundable, and the next tier is only partially refundable. The only way to get a fully refundable ticket is to buy an expensive one, so the reality is that people opting for cheaper tickets would end up having to pay twice.

  30. Richard
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Instead of the govvernment selling rail franchises to the highest bidder they should be hiring the lowest bidder for simply running the franchises.

    I agree with with Bob Eldridge above that driverless cars will spell the end of the railways, except possibly for commuting into central London, and HS2 will be nothing but a very expensive white elephant as a result.

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Figures recently broadcast on television show that since privatisation passenger miles on the railways have doubled, whereas the annual subsidy has gone up by about 40%. Whether one regards this as a success story or not, it does raise the possibility that, with a revised fares structure, the railways could make a profit and not be dependent on taxpayer cash.

    So let us pose the question: If the railways were completely privatised and fares were completely unregulated, could they make a profit?

    Perhaps we should look at the question of concession fares again. If, as a pensioner, I only have to pay £20 for a £30 ticket, the £10 benefit is tax free. If my pension increases by £10, that is taxed. Why should the amount of tax that a pensioner pays depend on how he or she receives the extra money?

    I’m not sure that competition within the railways will be 100% effective. Inter-modal competition – from bus and air travel – has its part to play. For example, is it not the case that the amount of bus commuting into London is strictly controlled?

  32. agricola
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    It can cost less than £10.00 to go to Dublin by air from Birmingham. It should be possible to go Birmingham / London for the same price if you can get the airport situation resolved. A measure of what our fantasy railways are.

  33. The Prangwizard
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Once politicians and government decide, usually out of weakness or for short-term popularity, to interfere or ‘regulate’ markets, the only outcome is trouble for everyone. Some will gain, but are rarely satisfied for long. Some others are will immediately claim ‘it is not enough’ and lobby for more. Companies must then search for a way to restore their lost revenue or lost freedoms. Further interference in their businesses follows and the cycle goes on. Everything gets more complicated.

    After a time the whole thing becomes ludicrous; there are claims ‘the market is not working’. This is obvious since it is not being allowed to, but this gives the more extreme politicians ammunition they need to push their bigger agenda.

    Politicians and political leaders rarely have the courage to dismantle their mad structures in spite of their claims of belief in free markets, but the best solution is to stay out. The Law and the market itself should be the only ‘regulators’.

    In truth it is ‘regulation’ that isn’t working – it is not the failure of markets.

  34. Iain Gill
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The problem with buying train tickets a long time in advance in this country is that you can never be sure the train will actually run. If you need a busy time you can never be sure of getting a seat as the reservations are routinely not enforced. The service can be cancelled for lots of reasons. At least if you buy it closer to the time you can have a bit more confidence that they are actually on track to run the train. Even that can go wrong which is why I prefer to pay on board a Grand Central train from Kings Cross to York than have to pay in the station before boarding an East Coast train for the same journey, at least if you are paying on board the train is moving and on its way. Holding an East Coast ticket while they proceed to cancel services is not nice, and getting your money back almost impossible.
    Yes the peak and off peak times are not refined enough, but implemented in too complex a way for anyone but a specialist to understand.
    Full price for an adult and 2 kids from Brussels to Antwerp return is only about 28 Euros, how comes the equivalent journey here is so much more?
    A large part of the problem is the peak travel into and out of London, if we gave tax breaks to firms (and workers) to stagger their start and end times we could reduce a lot of the problems.

  35. Mockbeggar
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Many people nowadays don’t need to go to the office every day, but can do one, two or even three days a week at home via computer. It seems to me that the best investment Network Rail could make would be to introduce Oyster card readers etc on commuter lines, starting with London but also other major cities. At present, commuters are obliged to buy a ticket valid every day, so working from home has little financial incentive so far as travel is concerned. Indeed, some may be so put off by the cognitive dissonance of paying for a ticket and not using it that they go in more often than they need and thus increase congestion.

  36. CdBrux
    Posted September 22, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Surely one of the issues is the need to provide a high capacity into major cities at commuting times. This affects both infrastructure needs and the need for additional trains to run on them. In the off peak times we see reduced capacity, but also reduced fares as they really only need to cover operating costs (though more clearly ideal – unless you are the person paying for the ticket!).

    Thus the capex is driven by the peak hours demand and if that can be smoothed / reduced then you can avoid some potentially expensive investments that are used for, say, 4 hours per day.

    One way to do this is to have season tickets whose cost is reduced when you do not travel on certain days – encouraging some home working which, although not possible for all, could also be good for those people woh one day per week can remove >1.5 hours commuting from their lives and maybe dedicate that to a little family time if they wish.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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