Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A rail congestion charge?

In a less stellar job than its Byrd piece, the front page of The Times today blares outRail commuters face congestion charges”. A more appropriate headline would have been “Rail commuters face free market forces”.

It turns out that the rail companies are contemplating raising prices on peak-hour trains in order to alleviate over-crowding. It’s been a while since my econ 101 class, but if memory serves, that’s not a "congestion charge". That’s the law of supply and demand.

Most ironic to this particular commuter was this:
The [Association of Train Operating Companies] said that the pricing system would be needed to cope with the introduction of road tolls, which could overwhelm trains by encouraging thousands of car drivers to switch to rail.
Surprise, surprise. The government introduces measures to force cars off the road, and it results in more crowded trains, causing prices to go up. Who could have imagined?

And then there was this gem:
The Rail Passengers Council condemned the plan, saying that many passengers had no choice but to catch certain trains. “We are opposed to pri-cing people off trains,” a spokeswoman said. “The way to attract passengers to less-crowded trains is to offer better off-peak discounts rather then target a captive audience.
Let me get this straight. The RPC condemns price increases for people who “have no choice”, but suddenly that same “captive audience” will exercise their heretofore non-existent ability to choose if other trains lower their price? Hmmm.


Blogger Richard John said...

Yes, the usual rent-a-quote input from a special interest group. I find this kind of lazy journalism somewhat tiresome.

12:55 PM  

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