Monday, 27 April 2009

Coucher issues challenge to NR

Near unalloyed joy last week, amongst the TOC community, following Iain Coucher's intervention on fares.

Speaking to the FT after his speech to Wednesday's Passenger Focus conference Coucher said:

"If people are genuinely not travelling because of high fares, that's an issue for us. If we want people to use the most environmentally sustainable form of transport, we should look at the impact of pricing."

But what's this?

According to consultants employed by both ORR, and Network Rail, the UK has the most expensive railway infrastructure in the world!

This year alone NR will receive a Network Grant of £3.76bn from the taxpayer.

With the government committed to getting rail users to contribute ever more to running the railway it seems timely to repeat Bowker's Law:

There are only two sources of railway funding - the consumer and taxpayers.

As the recession bites ever deeper passenger traffic is leveling off, whilst the global downturn in trade and the movement of goods is hitting railfreight hard. So getting more from the consumer will be a struggle.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has a fixed regulatory settlement that sees its funding guaranteed for the next five years.

So if fares are to come down, then somebody will need to pick up the slack.

Up to the challenge Network Rail?