Rail commuters should be given more choice regarding the quality of service and the cost of fares. An additional high-density, standing-only, ‘economy class’ section should be introduced on peak-time commuter trains.
A new report, Transport Infrastructure: Adding Value, suggests that tickets for the new ‘economy class’ carriages would likely be around 20% lower than the standard class fare. A discount of this amount would place the price of ‘economy class’ about mid-way between standard-class rail fares and commuter-coach fares.
Initially it is envisaged that three carriages per train could be converted to ‘economy class’ and these would probably be best located at the front of the trains as they entered the main termini, though the precise details would depend on market conditions. The interior layout of this high-density section could be modelled on the new rolling stock used for the London Overground service, except with the lateral seating replaced by lockable flip seats that would only be available for use on off-peak services. The 'economy class' concept could be tested in a pilot scheme on a suitable commuter line, before being rolled out more widely if the trial proved successful.
Capacity would be increased at low cost as a standard-length train would be able to carry more passengers without recourse to high levels of taxpayer-funded investment in expensive new infrastructure. The introduction of this new class of rail travel could significantly reduce the need for such investment.
Segmentation of the transport market and the introduction of new pricing options provide an opportunity to add smaller and less expensive tranches of capacity while achieving equal if not higher levels of overall benefit.
This approach should be applied across the transport sector. The public sector should learn from the continua