John Ruddy, Scottish Labour’s MSP candidate for Angus North and Mearns, has a simple suggestion to boost rail travel, reduce public subsidy and help cut carbon emissions.
As a regular rail user, I know how much it costs to use an environmentally friendly way of commuting to work. Rail fares have risen by an average of 25% since 2010, with some rising by much more. While peak time trains are crowded, off-peak services have capacity to spare. The annual subsidy to Scotrail is over £261 million – or 8.6p per passenger kilometre.
Over a decade ago, Railfuture, the organisation that campaigns for improved rail transport, commissioned research into a National Railcard that anyone could buy – similar to those for young people or senior citizens. That research found that at almost any combination of cost and discount, additional passenger journeys would be created and, as a result, profits would increase for the operator and subsidies would be reduced for the taxpayer. In fact, the biggest positive impact on reducing subsidy was found with the biggest discount (50%) – bigger than the current 33% offer for existing cards.
We should implement such a card now, covering all rail travel in Scotland. Geographical cards like this exist elsewhere in the UK, such as the hugely successful Network Railcard covering London and the South East. Introduced in 1986, this was intended to fill empty off-peak trains primarily used by commuters into London. Holders of annual season tickets in London and the South East are given free Network Railcards – called ‘Gold Cards’ – which have fewer restrictions, and include the ability to purchase further railcards for family members for £1, and the option to upgrade your off-peak ticket to first class for a small flat fee.
From the Railfuture study, we know that this simple railcard could boost off-peak travel as well as reducing taxpayer subsidy – perhaps by as much as £20 million. This is money that could be used for investment elsewhere in the rail network. Railcards are simple and well understood by the public and this would be popular and profitable. We would be able to reward those who purchase annual season tickets for commuting to work. And crucially this could also help to reduce car travel, and hence carbon emissions associated with it, contributing to meeting our climate change targets.
46 thoughts on “A Scottish railcard”
The “subsidy” wont be lost it will simply be transferred directly to the cost to the consumers. Meanwhile the taxation used as the subsidy will continue to be paid by the same consumers ensuring that their rail journeys cost them twice as much as they did before.
Labours idea of looking after their constituents is to continue to bleed them white.
Not sure what point you are making here. If the train operator gets more revenue, through additional journeys, then they require less subsidy from the Government.
Are you suggesting we should instead get rid of all railcards, including the ones that give disabled people and senior citizens a discount?
Why would removing the subsidy increase rail journeys when the rail company would have to make up the loss of the subsidy by increasing rail fares?
Mike, if the rail operator gets more in fares (because people make more journeys) then they require less subsidy – not the other way around.
You avoided answering the question. So lets try again. Why would there be an increase in journeys as a direct result of the rail companies losing their subsidy? Where is the connection?
Bloody hell, Mike. He answered the question. The answer is that that isn’t what he’s suggesting. He’s suggesting the process operating the other way around – an increase in journeys leading to a decrease in the amount of subsidy required.
John let me get this straight the idea of the railcard is to get a discount on fares on off peak travel and there is a cost to buying a railcard in the first place which correct me if I am not mistaken is to fleece the spondolies out of the folks of Scotlands pockets, instead forget about the cost of buying a railcard instead why not have a Scottish Law that states all rail companies must automatically reduce the cost of all off peak tickets at a uniformed standardised rate set for example at a discount rate of a third off the cost of the peak time fares across the whole of Scotland it’s not rocket science. Explain to me the reason why folks of Scotland need to be charged for getting a discount railcard and what happens to the money.
The idea is that it will work in exactly the same way as existing railcards – such as the Young Persons or Senior Citizens railcards. The modelling shows that by setting a nominal cost, it encourages multiple journeys to be made, as the savings outweigh the initial cost.
The money would go to the train operator, as it does at the moment with existing railcards (There are 5 at the moment).
The modelling shows that by setting a nominal cost, it encourages multiple journeys to be made.
What your talking about is treating a Private enterprise as a Nationalised service. Controlling by force its expenditure costs and profit margins. Why not just call for the full nationalisation of the service?
“Bloody hell, Mike. He answered the question. The answer is that that isn’t what he’s suggesting. He’s suggesting the process operating the other way around – an increase in journeys leading to a decrease in the amount of subsidy required.”
No he didn’t and clearly he cant which is why you felt the need to jump in to try and salvage his sorry bullshit.
So AGAIN how do you increase the number of journeys by removing the subsidy because removing the subsidy will only place the cost of the subsidy over to the passenger directly into their fares decreasing the likelihood of increased journeys.
And you wonder why youre heading for 3rd place in Scotland? Unbelievable.
You don’t. That’s the answer Mike. You don’t do that. Nobody is suggesting you do that. You got it wrong.
Got what wrong Duncan? The idiotic suggestion is to use any increase in rail usage as an excuse to remove the rail subsidy but by removing the rail subsidy you force the company to regain that loss at the expense of their customers which will inevitably mean fare increases which will inevitably reduce rail usage.
Stop assuming the people of Scotland are as stupid as Labour wants them to be.
Sigh. You *reduce* (not remove) the rail subsidy *if* income from ticket sales renders it unnecessary.
Stop assuming everything is Laabour baad.
Mike, you clearly dont understand how rail operators work. In the franchise agreement, if income goes up, then subsidy goes down. The operator still makes a profit – infact they would make a bigger profit.
Can I suggest you look at the original research by Railfuture if you dont believe me?
Mike – you make off peak journeys cheaper by providing an incentive for people to make extra journeys. That increases the number of such journeys. That means increased revenue for the operator. Increased revenue means less subsidy from Government.
Its not rocket science.
“The modelling shows that by setting a nominal cost, it encourages multiple journeys to be made, as the savings outweigh the initial cost.”
This is a typical Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooge bullshine if the fares are reduced then there is no need for a railcard and a reduction in fares as I suggested would automatically encourage multiple journeys, the only reason for a railcard is for your big business cronies the rail companies to get their greedy mitts on the hard earned cash of the folks of Scotland and as usual the Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooges put big business before the folks of Scotland.
You’re missing the word “know” in the first sentence. Who edits this stuff?! 😉
Good article though and I wholeheartedly agree with the idea. I also very much welcome articles that positively suggest a policy that the Scottish Government should consider without criticising or attempting to score political points.
Well whoever it is wants sacked. 😉
Nobody says you cant offer to pay more for your rail usage but don’t support the idea of forcing other people to because you can afford it. That’s just pathetic and corrupt.
“Mike, you clearly dont understand how rail operators work. In the franchise agreement, if income goes up, then subsidy goes down. The operator still makes a profit – infact they would make a bigger profit.”
“Can I suggest you look at the original research by Railfuture if you dont believe me?”
I know how private enterprise works. They work for profit. Any Government interference with that profit is automatically passed on to their customers. VAT is a prime example of how it works. So don’t try and patronise me because I can see through the bullshit. You will find that most people in Scotland can now see through it.
Wee tip don’t try and attract voters by making them angry.
Why not just Nationalise the rail network again and remove the subsidy altogether?
Mike……..you are making the mistake of using rational argument and logical process…
“Sigh. You *reduce* (not remove) the rail subsidy *if* income from ticket sales renders it unnecessary.”
Reduce Remove means that either the company will increase their fares to make up for the reduction or they will increase their fares to make up for the removal. Either scenario sees a reduction in rail usage.
Still hoping we’re as stupid as Labour needs us to be to vote for them.
“Mike – you make off peak journeys cheaper by providing an incentive for people to make extra journeys. That increases the number of such journeys. That means increased revenue for the operator. Increased revenue means less subsidy from Government.”
NO it bloody well doesn’t! Off peak journeys are already cheaper. There are several schemes in play by rail companies trying to encourage more rail usage. All kinds of “Saver” tickets” You’re not suggesting anything new at all.
But no matter what scheme is applied if you remove or reduce the subsidy the removal or reduction will be added to the cost to the user.
You know that! Duncan knows that I know that everybody reading this knows that.
If this is all you have to offer I wouldn’t vote for somebody like you if you put a gun to my head.
“Off peak journeys are already cheaper. There are several schemes in play by rail companies trying to encourage more rail usage. ”
Yes – one of the schemes are the national railcards. Lets have one for Scotland.
“Yes – one of the schemes are the national railcards. Lets have one for Scotland.”
Well and good as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to reduce rail subsidies and force the company to turn on us for their loss of profit margins.
“if income goes up, then subsidy goes down.”
Exactly! You want to transfer the cost of the subsidy onto the Rail users! Which is exactly what Ive been saying! Only you’re pretending its as a result of paying less! More money from less money. Its like Labour suggesting Not cutting APD releases funding to pay for everything.
You really do need people to be incredibly stupid to take your crap in.
No, Mike, income goes up because more people are making more journeys. Only in SNP world is that a bad thing.
“No, Mike, income goes up because more people are making more journeys. Only in SNP world is that a bad thing.”
You’re trying desperately to pretend there isn’t a cyclic sequence in your proposal.
So let me lay it out.
You create a scheme to encourage people to use the rail service more often. (“AGAIN” because its already been tried and is still being tried in various ways.) i.e reduce the profit margin of the company by making some or specific journeys cheaper. But what the companies lose in reduced fares they are supposed to make up by increased custom i.e greater usage. Highly dependent on getting enough custom to make up the loss of the fare reduction.
This is supposed to remove the need or reduce the need for subsidy. so you remove/ reduce it.
There goes the companies profit margin. So what can they do to get it back? They have to get it back from their customers. So inevitably they increase fares which inevitably results in a reduction in custom.
So the end result is the Government no longer pays the subsidy the customer does via the increased fare cost while the company either loses out or stands still on their profit margin depending on whether their increased fare costs compensates them for the decreased custom and their loss of subsidy.
like I said fooling nobody but those who want to believe any crap you people come up with in support of right wing Tory corruption.
That’s quite a leap you’ve made from your original “double pay” hypothesis, progress of sorts, I guess.
In what way? Ive explained that if the subsidy is removed the taxation paid by the customer remains as a tax while they get fleeced again by the company in order to make up their profit shortfall.
That’s a double whammy.
In order for it not to be the subsidy removal should result in an automatic taxation reduction.
If we are forced to give Government money for services when the Government doesn’t use it to pay for those services that is extortion and illegal.
That’s one of the reasons I keep telling folk that our consecutive UK Governments are criminals they extort money for services they don’t provide and instead spend our money on their own party political agendas such as warmongering and WMDs.
You should pay attention more then I wouldn’t have to keep explaining.
This really is one of your more stupid opinions Mike, and that’s saying something.
Choo Choo Choo Choo the next train departing at platform 1 is the Red Tory Stooge express destination Railcard Rip Off calling at Fleece, Sting, Con, Rob, Thieve arriving at Railcard Rip Off at 22.00 please passengers enjoy your journey and we the Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooges will make sure we pass on your hard earned cash for the cost of a railcard to our big business cronies at the rail companies.
Truly amazing. A really solid idea, that reduces public expenditure, increases sustainable transport use and cuts carbon emissions, and our resident Statler and Waldorf find a way to criticise Labour for an invented conspiracy. Will and Mike, I salute you.
“A really solid idea, that reduces public expenditure,”
HTF does it reduce public expenditure? If public expenditure is being reduced we would be seeing taxation reduction proposals compatible to the subsidy reduction.
WTF is taxation if its not public expenditure?
You’re not a political party you’re a circus act.
“HTF does it reduce public expenditure?”
Mike, public expenditure refers to government expenditure on public services. The theory is quite standard – increase profits by selling more tickets at a reduced rate. As I’ve explained below selling 100 tickets at £2 generates more revenue and therefore profit than selling 50 at £3. This in turn means that the government subsidy given to the rail franchise (when they are not profitable on their own) is automatically reduced. that frees up some money for the SNP to spend on other public services (or reduce taxes but that’s unlikely or undesirable unless you are a Tory who thinks public spending should be reduced indefinitely).
The bit you seem to be having trouble with is believing that this will indeed increase profits, and of course we can’t be sure of that but we can look at the learned research in the area (which can draw upon real data from similar schemes) and draw a conclusion that should be relatively trustworthy.
As an SNP supporter this seems like a good policy and I can’t help but think if the SNP had proposed it you wouldn’t be quite so against. A wee tip, blind partisanship is one of the reasons Labour finds itself in the sorry state it is today, don’t drag the SNP in the same direction with incoherent rants.
El Capitano thanks for salute I feel deeply honoured perhaps you could explain to me why there is the need for the railcard in the first place just for the right to pay for discounted off peak fares the only reason I can see for it is that it is a money making scam if the thought of just having a railcard for the sake of having a railcard is such a big deal why not make it free.
If you read the Railfutures analysis as referenced in the document you’ll see that having a small charge for the railcard is necessary to encourage its use.
I think you’ll find any drop in profits would be passed on to peak time commuters, the ones who HAVE to travel at specific times of day to earn money to keep the roofs over their heads. They would be the ones to suffer as they always do.
Graeme, the plan is designed to increase profits. It’s quite simple – reduced fares on off-peak journeys will, according to those who have studied and modelled the area, increase use of off-peak journeys by more than the amount needed to cover the drop in ticket price leading to higher overall profits. (100*£2 is better than 50*£3). If this turns out to be the case (you can never be sure but if we didn’t trust modelling and forecasting we’d have a very stagnant economy) then peak users will be unaffected.
Mike, public expenditure refers to government expenditure on public services.
Callum You can label it any way you like but you cannot be truthful and deny that Taxation is public expenditure and that removing or reducing rail subsidies will not result in any appropriate taxation reduction or removal so we have NO real reduction in Government expenditure all we have is a transference of cost from the Government to the public.
As I’ve explained below selling 100 tickets at £2 generates more revenue and therefore profit than selling 50 at £3.
But you first have to sell them! There is no guarantee you can sell 100 tickets at £2. That is not guaranteed solid income! You cant budget on volatile income.
Christ on a crutch Labour have been attacking the SNP over the fact that Oil revenue is volatile for years!
Now you want us to support an idea and budget based on volatility speculative outcomes and uncertain futures.
You’re not just hypocritical you people are criminally insane.
“Graeme, the plan is designed to increase profits”.
No it isn’t that is a bare faced lie the idea is to transfer the cost of the subsidy directly onto the rail user while continuing to apply the same level of taxation when the subsidy is no longer applied.
That’s a double whammy on the rail user and another taxation cost lost to public service use.
The money saved on the subsidy will then no doubt be used to help pay for Trident or warmongering or the House of Lords salaries.
That’s how it works in the UK.
“No it isn’t that is a bare faced lie the idea is to transfer the cost of the subsidy directly onto the rail user while continuing to apply the same level of taxation when the subsidy is no longer applied.”
I’m not sure what the lie is supposed to be. The idea is designed (by people who know about the topic) to increase sales revenue overall by drawing in a wider market through more affordable pricing. This would, if successful, lead to the requirement for less subsidy.
You make the assumption that the user gains nothing from the transaction. The rail user is in fact voluntarily paying for a service and in turn receiving transport from A to B. Lowering the cost of that for off-peak users such that it becomes a more appealing and thus more popular option can’t credibly be described as a “transfer of cost to the rail user”.
Any money saved on the subsidy, presumably is retained by the Scottish Govt so I very much doubt that John Swinney will be working the funding of Trident or HoL’s into his budget. Don’t be silly.
“That is not guaranteed solid income! You cant budget on volatile income.”
Of course it isn’t guarenteed – nothing is – but we can make educated projections and they say it will probably work. I don’t imagine we’re talking game changing amounts of money here but what we have here is a nice little policy that at worst will break even and leave a few rail users happier or at best free up a bit of money for govt spending on health care, education or probably more appropriately improved transport infrastructure.
What it isn’t is a tool by which to attack Labour. The plan could just have easily been devised by any party in Scotland.
Attention Attention this is a customer announcement all services from platform 1 going to Railcard Rip Off have been suspended due loads of sticky pound notes on the rail lines our Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooges are working like beavers to get the sticky pound notes off the rail lines and have already cleared barrow loads and delivered them to their big business rail company cronies who are delighted that the folks of Scotland will have to pay for a piece of paper railcard to give them access to already discounted fairs so folks of Scotland dig deep dig deep.
No one on here seems to understand rail pricing.
Rail companies drive prices up to reduce demand.
When trains are overcrowded its far easier to increase prices than to add capacity.
Despite what they may say publicly, train operating companies don’t want more passenger journeys, they want increased profitability.
A national off peak railcard for Scotland is an utterly irelevant string of tinsel draped on a turd.
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