Buses are Always a Footnote

Coastliner Bus at Malton

In a footnote to Boris Johnson’s reconfirmation of the troubled HS2 railway megaproject, the Department for Transport announced additional funding for buses. £5 billion (less £350 millionor maybe a billion … for cycling) over 5 years, spread across “every region outside London”. Presumably within England, since local transport policy is devolved elsewhere, although in a nebulous style typical of the Prime Minister, the language is of “country” – however one chooses to see it.

Needless to say this “new vision for local transport” is extremely light on detail, as yet devoid of strategy, and still pending the appropriate Comprehensive Spending Review. We’d all be well advised to get it in writing first.

One billion pounds per year is not entirely insignificant – almost 50p per bus passenger journey (in England outside London) or just over £1 per bus vehicle mile operated. Potentially enough to buy aspirations for “higher frequency services” or “more affordable, simpler fares” on urban networks. But nowhere near enough to deliver “turn up and go” frequencies in small town, periurban or rural areas, where patronage and consequent farebox revenue would tend to be minimal. A but that will be the bane of this politically, since much of the electoral constituency of Johnson’s government is small town, periurban or rural, precisely the places where public transport does not deliver as much “bang for the buck”. Continue reading “Buses are Always a Footnote”

Dialling a Ride for Eight

Geese and Goslings

An exposition of the current regulatory travails of Britain’s Community Transport sector, with an exploration of the legal possibilities for operating Dial & Ride style community services using vehicles with capacity of no more than eight. This essay provides insight into why there is so little taxi policy locally, and why the British have such a problem with sharing. Continue reading “Dialling a Ride for Eight”

What is Connectivity?

South Shields

This essay expounds the policy concept of transport connectivity in Britain from two diverging epistemological perspectives – nation and location. The text characterises the difficulty of managing the midst, before applying the implications to Mobility as a Service. Continue reading “What is Connectivity?”

Aquius – An Alternative Approach to Public Transport Network Discovery

Aquius at the University of York

As the complexity of public transport networks grew during the 20th century, so did the inventiveness of the attempts to communicate those networks to users. Angular schematic maps, in the form of the London Underground map attributed to Harry Beck, have since become common for core urban and suburban public transport networks. Since at least the 1990s these maps have infected service design, with high frequency bus networks increasingly structured to be readily communicable as stylised network maps – inevitably limiting the range of direct destinations offered. Inter-regional networks necessarily remain complicated, and, as illustrated by various European attempts at national network flow maps, are challenging to communicate in schematic form. At least on paper. Continue reading “Aquius – An Alternative Approach to Public Transport Network Discovery”

Saving Ferroviarias

ADIF at Luarca station

This essay reviews the broad policy context of Spain’s passenger railways, highlighting the residual tension between pre-democratic and Modern eras, the financial impetus to make the high speed network more viable, and the evolving policy paradigm of rationalisation. Continue reading “Saving Ferroviarias”

Is Alta Velocidad Fast?

Awaiting Fast AVE

This essay analyses and explores the regional passenger fare structure of Renfe, Spain’s national railway operator. The question, “Is Alta Velocidad Fast?”, derives from Renfe’s tradition of pricing slower trains cheaper. The question asks whether, in the era of yield management (balancing current patronage to current capacity by modifying price), the traditional fare structure should be applied to high speed, AV, operations? The journey provides an insight into the structure of modern transport geography, the haphazard strategic development and exploitation of Alta Velocidad, the management of national inequalities through fares, the conflation of public and commercial roles within single shared operations, and, from a perspective other than infrastructure, the contemporary challenges to Spain’s railways. Continue reading “Is Alta Velocidad Fast?”

Arriva Celta

Talgo Shunt

Arriva Spain Rail’s announcement of a new cross-border railway service from A Coruña (La Coruña) in Galicia to Porto (Oporto) in northern Portugal took some in the railway industry by surprise. The first proper phase of the liberalisation of Spain’s national passenger railways was widely expected to be focused on the high speed AVE network, a somewhat commercial near-aviation market, theoretically serviceable with trains acquired outside Spain. Even interest in cross-border services had hitherto focused on the high speed route from Madrid via Barcelona to the south of France, which judging by its latest search for 15 new cross-border drivers, state operator Renfe intends to respond to competitively. After all, the Spanish government had declared every regional railway service to be “Obligación de Servicio Público” (Public Service Obligation, OSP), to be financially supported as a Renfe monopoly, likely well into the 2030s. Add the difficulty of acquiring and operating uniquely Iberian gauged and signalled rolling stock in an environment where almost all the relevant assets are held by state operators, and one might dismiss the whole A Coruña-Porto scheme as an ill-conceived dream of a multinational that had not yet understood the local railway environment. Except the Arriva Group have been operating buses in Galicia since 1999 and Portugal since 2000, and so should know the territory as well as anyone. Perhaps more importantly, while Arriva’s British rivals sought liberalised markets for their initial forays “overseas” in the 1990s, Arriva learnt to work with whatever competitive environment it found on mainland Europe. That combination of local experience and competitive adaptability makes Arriva’s approach to Spanish railways unique. That Arriva’s first instinct is A Coruña-Porto, and not head-to-head competition on flagship intercity routes such as Madrid-Barcelona, reveals much about Spanish railway liberalisation. Continue reading “Arriva Celta”