Thursday, 31 May 2012

Overground, Underground: Making Public Transport Better

There’s some great stuff on London Reconnections, the blog which covers transport topics in and around London. The writers are very well informed, and the coverage can be amazingly detailed on subjects that can be incredibly esoteric. Sometimes, there are real nuggets. Like this one, a report covering the first meeting of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee since the Mayoral (and GLA) elections. The line-up included Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy and Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport. Overground round What was really interesting was the comments from Peter Hendy about the reasons for the success of the London Overground – a soon-to be orbital rail network around London which has been forged from a mix of existing and (a few) new bits of rail line, run by Transport for London. Although Hendy was talking about London, his comments apply to any urban transport system. They directly address the way that transport providers need to think when they are part of a move to change behaviours and encourage modal shift - get people out of their cars. Here is what Hendy said,
“The Overground is a fantastic model. I don’t think anybody expected the transformation of the Overground to be half as successful as in fact it’s been. And the reason for that is because we’ve correctly recognised it’s an urban railway serving Greater London in a similar way that the Tube serves it, and that some of the same conditions that you would then apply are the ones which greatly generate income. Like staffed stations. Like a frequent service. Like attractive stations….you should have an economic model, one in which actually you’re not trying to incentivise the operator to build revenue on an incremental basis. What you’re in fact trying to incentivise them to do is to run a decent service. And the consequent revenue increase, which we’ve seen on the Overground, through that and more staffed stations, and more police and so on, then accrues back to the Mayor. So it’s a virtuous circle. And that’s the strong argument on this, and anybody who travels on the Southeastern in the inner metro area will attest to the fact that if you could close your eyes and imagine it was run like the Overground then you might get a better service, you might have more customers, you might have more income – but that income ought to accrue to the Mayor to pay for the better service you’re operating.”

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