Rail 2014 Consultation Analysis

5 Scottish train services

Q15 - Can better use be made of existing train capacity, such as increasing the permitted standing time beyond the limit of 10 minutes or increasing the capacity limit? What is an acceptable limit for standing times on rail services?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Increase capacity and number of carriages in addition to improving infrastructure, such as lengthening platforms
  2. - 10 minutes is an acceptable standing time
  3. - Could slightly increase standing time

Key themes

5.1 One main theme that arose from this question was the franchisee should look to improve capacity of the trains themselves. The respondents stated that this could be achieved either by increasing capacity through reconfiguration of carriage layouts (e.g. replicating an airline configuration) or that a way to address overcrowding and to reduce the amount of standing time was to increase the amount of carriages provided on commuter services in the peak hour. A few, however, identified that this may prove an invalid option due to current infrastructure restrictions such as platform lengths.

5.2 Another key theme in the responses to this question was that respondents thought the current limit of 10 minutes standing was acceptable on shorter journeys, with many stating that this is to be the expected norm during peak periods on what are essentially commuter routes. It is worthwhile pointing out, however, that the majority of respondents were not aware of a permitted standing time limit.

5.3 There was a difference of opinion on whether the limit for standing should be increased or not, with many respondents highlighting that they do not wish to see an increase in the acceptable standing time and that ideally passengers should not be made to stand at all. These respondents thought that as there is only one fare available on the consistently overcrowded services, with those seated paying the same as those standing, then they expected to be able to have access to a seat. It should be noted however that the number of respondents who suggested increasing standing time was very similar to those who stated that the limit should not be increased.

5.4 Where respondents thought that the limit could be increased, they stated that this would be acceptable up to a limit of around 15 minutes on shorter commuter routes and 20-30 minutes on longer distance routes where the journey times between stations is greater.

5.5 A large number of respondents identified that a person's limit for standing varies, depending on their age and health. For some, such as older people or the infirm, standing is not an option whereas for others standing can be tolerable to a certain point. Although there are those who would give up their seat to those most in need of one, respondents stated that the reliability of getting a seat on services needs to be addressed.

5.6 An option highlighted by a sizeable number of respondents is to address the seat reservation system operating on the longer distance journeys, improving its reliability. It would appear that reserved seats are often occupied by a passenger who has not booked the seat. This was expanded on further by a small number of respondents who wanted a priority seating system available for season ticket holders, older people and the infirm.

Organisational and individual responses

5.7 Organisations and individuals both agreed on the three main themes on this question.

5.8 More individuals than organisations thought that ten minutes was an acceptable standing time, including two passenger groups.

5.9 A higher proportion of individuals than organisations noted that they thought standing times could be increased slightly depending on the route, e.g. suburban commuter routes.

5.10 A number of organisations thought that standing should only occur during peak periods and only on commuter routes, this was noted in particular by tourism and leisure groups.

5.11 A number of individual responses thought that, as it is the same cost to sit as stand, there should be no standing at all, and everyone should be able to have a seat. Individuals also tended to believe that standing time limits were meaningless as they cannot see how they are enforced.

5.12 Overall it was generally thought that 10 minutes is an acceptable time to be expected to stand, especially on the busy commuter lines. The same limit should be set for the longer rural routes as there is further to travel between stations. Individuals from all areas, however, were keen to point out that standing in general should not be a 'given' and that something needs to be done to address this problem especially on the busier commuter services. Particularly if the government is successful in increasing modal shift from cars to trains. As such some were adamant that a solution to this should not involve raising fares to act as a deterrent to travelling on certain services.

Equality issues

5.13 Respondents emphasised that it is unacceptable for people with disabilities to be asked to stand on trains, as it is highly uncomfortable and in most cases not possible. They also highlighted the fact that an overcrowded train can make it difficult for disabled people to manoeuvre through a train, especially through vestibule areas in order to find seats. If standing times are to be maintained or increased then certain enhancements and adjustments should be made to the design of carriages, to include seating areas within easy reach of doors for people with disabilities.

"To a disabled passenger standing for ten minutes in an overcrowded train is a tiring and stressful experience. If overcrowding is to be expected, then a priority seating convention should be adopted which gives automatic priority of seats adjacent to doorways to people with physical disabilities. Of course, if there's no such demand on a service, these seats are available to all."
Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (SATA)

"I think if you have to stand for your journey then you should get a reduction in the fare (perhaps in the form of a voucher so that this can be given to the passenger at the time of the journey). More trains or longer carriages should be provided. For elderly or disabled passengers standing is not acceptable."
Public Response

"Many passengers, though not registered disabled, have physical problems standing for long periods."
Public Response

Geographical analysis

5.14 At a further, disaggregate level, individuals in the more urban areas, such as SPT, pointed out that standing may be expected and tolerated on some services, especially for busy commuter suburban lines. Here stations are closer together meaning commuters have less far to travel. For longer rural routes, it was thought that capacity should already be built into the rolling stock that operates these lines, and there should be no standing.

Q16 - Should the number of services making use of interchange stations (both rail to rail and rail to other modes) be increased to reduce the number of direct services? What would be the opportunities and challenges of this?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - The number of changes should always be kept to a minimum
  2. - There should be no reduction in direct services, any increase in interchange services should be additional
  3. - Interchange stations which link to other transport modes should be increased, for example bus Park and Ride

Key themes

5.15 The vast majority of respondents would definitely not like to see direct services removed which would result in an increase of services where passengers have to change trains. Respondents explained that they thought the number of these interchanges should always be minimised.

5.16 A sizeable number of respondents thought that services stopping at interchange stations were a good idea only if these were additional services added to the direct services already running. They did not want to see a reduction in the number of direct services.

5.17 Respondents also stated that stations that are currently used for interchange points, or have the potential to be used as an interchange point, should be improved to include cross modal interchanges such as park-and-ride and bus interchanges with stations. They thought that these improvements should not be implemented as a replacement for direct services.

5.18 A significant number of respondents highlighted that changing services is very stressful, and had concerns about the operation of interchange stations. For example, some stated concerns over the amount of time available to switch services will cause anxiety.

"Customers just do not like changing trains. They do not like having to carry heavy baggage through stations and on and off trains. If the first train runs a little late the customer suffers stress worrying he will miss his connection. The more changes required on a journey the more likely a customer is to choose some other mode of transport. A journey by car requires no changes. That is what RAIL has to compete with. An exception could be a ring of bus to rail interchange stations round cities, allowing customers to make a quick change from bus or car to rail for the final part of their journey into a city centre."
Public Response

5.19 Respondents raised concerns about the suitability of some of the main hubs, such as Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket. At these stations platforms could become extremely congested during certain times of the day, and this would have a further knock-on effect on those having to transfer between services. These crowded platforms cause serious concerns as they provide further obstacles in trying to make a transfer in the available time, whilst this is a problem for all rail users, the issue is particularly acute for those with luggage or passengers with mobility issues.

5.20 A selection of respondents also highlighted concerns over the reduction in direct services from rural regions of Scotland, in particular the Highlands. Respondents either stated that they would like to see long distance direct services preserved or else increased, and would not like to see these services compromised in order to increase services using interchange stations.

"Several passengers greatly value the direct services going from Thurso/Wick to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen without having to change at Inverness. This service has been in operation before. Changing trains unnecessarily is a major dis-incentive to potential rail users and should be avoided."
Dornoch Rail Link Action Group

Organisational and individual responses

5.21 Organisations and individuals both identified the same key three themes in answer to this question. A larger proportion of individuals than organisations thought that changes should always be kept to a minimum. This was, however, still the most significant opinion expressed by all organisations; the theme was of particular importance to trade unions, local government groups, equality groups and tourism groups.

5.22 More organisations than individuals, particularly local authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships, answered that direct services should not be reduced and that any increase in interchange services should be additional to existing direct travel opportunities.

Equality issues

5.23 Equality issues were raised as one of the main reasons why adding extra changes to journeys should be avoided. Numerous respondents stated that this would cause many problems for older people, the infirm and those travelling with small children and/or luggage.

5.24 This was one of the main concerns expressed by equality groups, who stated that changing services is extremely stressful and difficult for those with disabilities. They stressed the number of changes should always be kept to a minimum as it can be very difficult to leave one service to cross the station in time to meet a connecting service, especially if they are carrying luggage. As such, they would like to see as many direct services as possible maintained.

"Disabled passengers find changing trains difficult and tend to prefer direct services rather than risking being stranded in an unfamiliar place due to missed connections. More changes would place greater demands on the Passenger Assistance Scheme, which would incur additional cost and potential for failure."
Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (SATA)

"A requirement to change trains acts as a strong disincentive to use rail services for a wide variety of rail users including the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the young and those unfamiliar with the area. Wherever possible direct service opportunities should be maximised."
Public Response

"Direct trains are vital in attracting accommodating passengers who are less mobile, have heavy luggage, have small children, are elderly and infirm and who are disabled in any way."
Public Response

Q17 - Should Government direct aspects of service provision such as frequency and journey time, or would these be better determined by the franchisee based on customer demand?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Minimum standards prescribed by Government, with operators allowed to enhance and improve
  2. - The government should take the lead, no input by operators
  3. - Customer feedback and demand should dictate

Key themes

5.25 The majority of respondents thought that the best solution would be for the government to set out train service standards, which the franchisee should adhere to but could then expand upon and enhance. Respondents thought that this method would be the best way to ensure that service standards were kept, and would also mean that lifeline services (those which are relied upon as a key link for communities), especially in rural areas, would be protected.

"Government should require a minimum level of service provision but with the ability for operators to provide a greater level of service"
Public Response

5.26 Minimum standards were considered an important point, and respondents tended to provide reasons to justify their support for each of these standards.

5.27 In addition, respondents also frequently noted the importance of reliability over journey times.

"It is running to time (reliability) that is most important to passengers be they commuters or tourists. This includes arrival and departure times at intermediate stations, where variations from published timetables give the impression of poor performance and can increase passenger stress levels and anxiety."
Glasgow City Council

5.28 A significant number of respondents also emphasised that the government should take the lead in specifying all aspects of service provision. Respondents stated that government would better serve the needs and expectations of current passengers and potential future passengers as opposed to operators who are thought by some to be mainly profit-driven and with their own interests at heart.

5.29 A large number of respondents, on the other hand, answered that they thought most service provision aspects should be addressed, and these should be based on customer and potential customer opinions and demand, as opposed to government or operator influence. These respondents thought that as the passengers are the ones that use the services everyday, they should be the ones who should be consulted on aspects of service provision through customer feedback and demand.

"A case could be made for specifying a minimum service frequency of fifteen minutes for commuter services. This is generally accepted as providing a turn-up-and-go service for heavy rail, most passengers being prepared to wait up to fifteen minutes for a train. For longer distance services (inter-urban and rural), there should be a preference for constant frequency services, preferably departing at constant clock-face times. The actual frequency should be not be stipulated by the Government but should be determined by passenger demand on the basis that a seat is available for the entire length of the journey for every passenger."
Glasgow City Council

5.30 Some respondents did, however, feel that the operator is best placed to make decisions as they are the ones who are involved everyday in the running of services. This would mean that they could gauge public opinion through the rapport established between themselves and the passengers. Respondents stated that this would be the best option if the operators worked within a certain set of parameters that were influenced via public feedback.

"The Government should have the ultimate power to make such directions but should ideally determine jointly with the franchisee the frequency and journey times, taking into account high-quality customer feedback and aspiration."
Public Response

5.31 Other significant Issues that were raised by respondents included: the provision of train services for special events such as sporting events, late night running trains and services for those attending concerts, and for rural services which are a lifeline to communities in these areas. A group of respondents thought that whoever best served and addressed these key concerns, should be the ones to decide on the aspects of service provision.

5.32 A possible solution identified by a significant group of respondents included the setting up of a joint leadership arrangement between both the operator and the government. They stated that this would ensure that all aspects of service provision could be provided with the optimum outcome achieved.

5.33 Other suggestions included involving independent bodies to regulate service provision and the operation of the services, including measures such as quality and efficiency.

Organisational and individual responses

5.34 The three key themes were identified by organisations and individuals alike.

5.35 Whilst the key theme overall was that minimum requirements and standards should be prescribed by the government, this was particularly important to local authorities, economic and business groups and the British Transport Police.

5.36 Individuals, however, were more inclined to suggest that the government should take the lead for all aspects of service provision. Local government groups and tourism groups were also particularly supportive of this point.

5.37 A higher proportion of individuals also thought that public opinion and responses to surveys by the public should dictate service provision - a point also supported by rail user groups.

Q18 - What level of contract specification should we use the for the next ScotRail franchise?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Targeted specification
  2. - Full specification, or as high as possible specification
  3. - Franchisees should be able to provide additional services or show innovation

Key themes

5.38 Question 18 asks what level of contract specification should be used for the next ScotRail franchise and the consultation document outlined three main options: minimum, full and targeted specification.

5.39 A considerable number of respondents were in favour of targeted specification and they were joined by a small group who thought that services should be specified for social, or less profitable, routes in order to protect them. This was followed by respondents who were in favour of full specification. Very few respondents advocated minimum specification.

"The concept of Targeted Specification appears to offer an appropriate balance between ensuring a minimum level of service and allowing the franchisee sufficient flexibility to innovate. In rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway flexibility should not undermine efforts to coordinate local bus services with rail timetables. There is also a need to specify a minimum level of Sunday service of at least half the Monday to Saturday minimum."
The South West of Scotland Transport Partnership

"A high level of specification is needed, but supplemented by incentive opportunities for the franchisee to improve on the minimum service requirement."
Railfuture Scotland

5.40 A large number of respondents reported that franchisees should be able to provide additional services. This view was expressed regardless of the level of specification, with some stating that this would give the franchisees scope to innovate.

5.41 The other opinion which was conveyed by a number of respondents was that the specification should be flexible enough so that is can be changed throughout the life of the franchise.

Organisational and individual responses

5.42 Overall, a higher proportion of organisations than individuals said that franchisees should be able to provide additional services or show innovation. This seemed to be particularly important to the subset of passenger groups, economic and business groups, and tourism groups.

5.43 Both individuals and organisations preferred Targeted Specification for use within the next franchise, with local authorities, local government groups and community councils supporting this initiative. There was reasonable support amongst trade unions and Regional Transport Partnerships for full specification, particularly for less profitable 'social routes'.

Q19 - How should the contract incentivise the franchisee to be innovative in the provision of services?

Table of responses

Popular themes

  1. - Financial bonuses/discounts or the operator receives an increased share of profit (either company profits or individual bonuses) for innovative services
  2. - Profit sharing through improved returns on investment or larger share of revenue for investing in innovative services
  3. - Incentives based on passenger growth, increase in passenger miles or increased modal share for rail travel

Key themes

5.44 Question 19 asks how the contract should incentivise the franchisee to be involved in the provision of services. In general, there was a wide range of ideas expressed and many of these may only have been partly relevant to the question.

5.45 One of the two most common themes was that there should be financial rewards for franchisees that provide innovative services.

"We suggest that Transport Scotland should hold an innovation fund to encourage the start-up of new services and / or opening of new stations at minimum risk to the franchisee. This would also require the co-operation of Network Rail, and Transport Scotland who are best placed to ensure the parties work together."
Transform Scotland

5.46 The other main theme from a similarly sized group was that the franchisee should retain a greater share of profits as a reward for investing in innovative services.

"The franchisee should be incentivised to maximise revenue through innovation. Where this is achieved profit-sharing mechanisms should ensure that additional generated revenue contributes to reinvesting in the rail network and services for the benefit of taxpayers and passengers. The franchisee should be required to work with Transport Authorities and other bodies in identifying opportunities to innovate.
" Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland

5.47 Other respondents thought that incentives should be based on a growth in passenger numbers/miles or an increase in the modal share of rail travel compared to car or air travel.

5.48 While some respondents thought no incentives were necessary for innovation as franchisees should be doing this anyway or because innovation is not always in the best interest of the passenger. This group also contained respondents who thought that if services are tendered correctly there should be no need to offer further incentives to franchisees.

Organisational and individual responses

5.49 A limited number of organisations responded to this question. As such, breaking organisational responses down into key sub-groups does not provide a good understanding of their issues. There was no significant difference in responses between individuals and organisations across the three key themes.