View From The Signalbox
Did you see in the press recently that the relaunched Motorail service was going to charge £431 return London to Inverness return for an average size of car and driver?
I not an expert in these matters, but it does seem to me to be a very high figure. Graham Steele, Managing Director of Motorail justified the charge by claiming that when the cost of petrol and an overnight stop was calculated the charge was reasonable - and remember we are still only talking about the driver!
Now, when I make the return journey to London in a small family car I reckon on spending about £100 on petrol. I take 11 hours for the journey from the Black Isle to the M25 just south-east of London. True, I thoroughly enjoy my driving but I can't believe for one moment that Motorail's research came up with a profile of their likely customer as one who would stop for the night half way between London and Inverness.
So, Motorail are claiming they require £331 to cover their costs per car. True, the wagons require financing, the staff associated with the project require paying and the extra energy to move the wagons has to be paid for and then a profit created - a profit, I suspect, that is too high.
I have a theory that businesses are more successful when they collect lots of small profits than a few large ones and I feel that this is a prime example. The charge is too high, the service will be under utilised, the 'profits' will fall and the service discontinued.
In our own situation with the Far North Line we know that every ticket is subsidised but, presumably, the subsidy is only calculated after the income is deducted from the expense of providing the service. If you reduce the fare I find it tempting to assume that the number of passengers will increase such that the total income will increase gradually reducing the subsidy.
Of course, those of you who have been managing to keep up with me will have realised that it all goes wrong when your train isn't large enough to cater for all the cars/people you have attracted to your service. I do wish someone would be brave enough to try out my theory.