Insights: Peaking too early (or too late)

One way of increasing business between London and Manchester

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Jonathan Burr Photo

I have worked in Manchester for 19 years and throughout that time I have had to travel very regularly to London.  There was a time when the trains were so unreliable that the only way of being sure to be on time – other than going down the night before – was to take the plane.  However since the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line I can’t remember the last time I flew on this route.

The other thing that has changed for me personally is that for most of that time I was working in well established businesses.  I travelled First Class.  A secretary booked my tickets so I never thought about what they cost.  If a meeting ran over or my plans changed I just paid the difference.  Now I watch every penny.  I also book my own tickets.

PeakOffPeak

So here are two pictures.  One was taken at 7pm at Euston last Friday evening and the other this morning at around 9am just south of Macclesfield.  Obviously the very busy one is ‘off-peak’.  The pushing toward the barrier was so bad that seconds after this picture was taken the ticket inspectors decided to stand aside.  No-one checked my ticket at Euston, or on the train or at Stockport.

The reason – people wait until the end of the ‘peak’ to travel when it is cheaper.

The picture with the empty seats is obviously the ‘peak’ train.  £135 for a single second class ticket online.

The last time I flew anywhere was to Geneva with EasyJet.  Every seat was taken at whatever price passengers had been willing to pay at the time they booked it.  Why can’t we have the same system on the trains?

I expect that by the time HS2 arrives I will be travelling to London mostly for leisure rather than work.  How much more business could be generated between London and Manchester before then by simply liberalising the fares?