The Anonymous Widower

Could Suffolk Have It’s Own Version Of London’s Freedom Pass?

London has a travel pass for certain groups of passengers, like the elderly and the disabled called a Freedom Pass.

This is the introduction forthe Freedom Pass from Wikipedia.

Freedom Pass is a concessionary travel scheme, which began in 1973, to provide free travel to residents of Greater London, England, who are aged 60 and over (eligibility age increasing by phases to 66 by 2020) or who have a disability. The scheme is funded by local authorities and coordinated by London Councils. Originally the pass was a paper ticket, but since 2004 it has been encoded on to a contactless smartcard compatible with Oyster card readers.

I have a Freedom Pass, as I am seventy-two and it really gives me freedom, as my eyesight isn’t good enough for me to drive.

Other parts of the UK like Manchester and Newcastle have similar schemes that allow a degree of free travel on local trains, trams and light rail systems.

But generally English counties like Suffolk don’t have such a scheme.

East Anglia’s Rail Revolution

All of Greater Anglia’s trains are being replaced with new Stadler Class 745 and Class 755 trains.

In InterCity Quality For Rural Routes, I said this.

Greater Anglia are purchasing a fleet of 38 trains with a total of 138 carriages to replace 27 trains with a total of 58 carriages.

  • This is a forty percent increase in the number of trains.
  • This is nearly two and a half times as many carriages.
  • The average number of carriages per train is raised from 2.1 to 3.6.

That is a massive increase in train capacity.

I don’t believe that Greater Anglia will park these trains in a siding, but use them to increase frequencies.

Greater Anglia are having signalling problems introducing the new trains, but we have already seen the following in Suffolk.

Four-car Class 755 trains running from Ipswich to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

As the frequency is still the same and train length has increased from one, two and three cars, this is almost a doubling of capacity.

The UK’s Contactless Ticketing Revolution

London started wide-scale contactless tickerting and in places, it is applied to rural routes like Iver and Reading on TfL Rail’s new Western branch, where frequencies are more Suffolk, than Central London.

I believe in the next few years, the average passenger going between say Newmarket and Ipswich in Suffolk, will touch-in at Newmarket with their credit card and touch-out at Ipswich, just as passengers do now, millions of times all over London, every day of the year.

London’s Freedom Pass looks to the readers in London, as just a different credit card, so it is able to allow passengers through.

I believe that once Suffolk goes contactless with ticketing, then it will be possible to overlay a Suffolk Free Travel Pass on the system.

What Lines Would Be Allowed To Be Used By Passengers With A Suffolk Free Travel Pass?

These are routes that are wholly or partly in Suffolk.

Ipswich And Cambridge

The Ipswich and Cambridge Line currently has one train per hour (tph) and is wholly in Suffolk, except for a short section at the Cambridge end of the route.

Would a Suffolk Travel Pass allow travel to Cambridge?

I suspect that both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk would have reasons for a compromise , as both counties could benefit from visiting Travel Pass holders.

I would include Ipswich and Cambridge in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich And Diss

The section of the Great Eastern Main Line, between Ipswich and Diss, currently has two tph and is wholly in Suffolk, except for a short stretch at Diss, which is just over the border in Norfolk.

I would include Ipswich and Diss in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich And Felixstowe

The Felixstowe Branch Line currently has one tph and is wholly in Suffolk.

But this route is planned to be upgraded as I wrote in Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?.

  • Tram-trains would start at Ipswich station and run to \felixstowe.
  • Tram-trains could start on the forecourt of Ipswich station and could run through the streets of Ipswich, via Portman Road, the Town Centre, Christchurch Park, Ipswich Hospital, the proposed new housing at Westerfield and Ransome’s Retail Park before joining the Felixstowe  Branch, in the area, where it crosses the A14.
  • It could even do more street running in Felixstowe to connect to the Town Centre and the Sea Front.
  • Frequency would be four tph.

Removing the passenger service from the rail lines between Derby Road and Ipswich stations, would allow more freight trains to run through the area.

I would include Ipswich and Felixstowe in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich and Lowestoft

The East Suffolk Line currently has one tph and is wholly in Suffolk.

I believe that this line could be developed by adding a second hourly service to Aldeburgh.

I would include Ipswich and Lowestoft in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Colchester And Peterborough

The current service runs between Ipswich and Peterborough, and is a service of one train per two hours.

Greater Anglia plan to do the folloeing.

  • Increase the frequency to one tph.
  • Extend the route to run between Colchester and Peterborough.
  • It will terminate in a bay platform at Colchester.

The route will be mainly in Suffolk, with thends in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

  • Passengers for the North and Scotland will change at Peterborough.
  • Passengers for London will change at Colchester, Ipswich, Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • Passengers for Stansted Airport, Hertfordshire and West Essex will change at Cambridge.
  • Passengers for Sudbury will change at Colchester.

This route will become a very important connecting service.

Because of this connectivity, I would include Colchester and Peterborough in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Colchester Town And Sudbury

The Gainsborough Line currently has one tph and is an isolated line that is half in Suffolk and half in Essex.

I would include Colchester Town and Sudbury in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

How Would It Be Funded?

Wikipedia says this sabot the funding of London’s Freedom Pass.

The cost of providing the travel concession is negotiated between London Councils and the local transport operator Transport for London. It is funded through a mixture of national grant and council tax.

Although a similar process could be used for a county like Suffolk, other elements are present, that have effects on use and revenue.

Only One Train Operator

There is only one train operator involved; Greater Anglia.

This must make planning and operation easier.

Greater Anglia Should Benefit From Passengers Travelling Further

Will passengers use their passes to get to Ipswich and Peterborough to travel further?

If they do, then Greater vAnglia won’t be bothering.

Greater Anglia may be able to fill the twelve-car Clsass 745 trains in the Peaks, but filling them in the Off Peak will be more difficult.

Would a Suffolk Free Travel Pass attract passengers to the trains?

Modal Change

This is a big imponderable in any calculation.

If you live near a station, would you be more likely to use the train to go to work, shopping or a meal in Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds or Cambridge, if the train was free?

Only partly, but if the car parking was expensive or always full, that would be a deterrent.

People plan travel against a large range of parameters and cost is one of them.

Would a Suffolk Free Travel Pass take pressure off the roads.

Trips To The Coast

There are only two rail-connected coastal towns in Suffolk; Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

Travel on a sunny day between Ipswich and Felixstowe and the train can be packed with passengers going for a stroll along the sea front.

With more capacity, this usev will increase and especially amongst those who would be eligible for a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Carbon Emissions

People are starting to take notice of carbon emissions.

But they’re not buying electric cars, as they worry about the range.

So taking the train is a sop to the pressure of their conscience or that of their children.

Stansted Airport

There are two tph between Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

Travelling from say East Suffolk to the sun, could start with a train to the nearest airport using a train at Cambridge.

East-West Suffolk Travel

Suffolk is not the largest county in England, but East West travel by road can take longer than the train.

Greater Anglia are planning two East-West services at a frequency of one tph.

  • Colchester and Peterborough via Ipswich, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Ely.
  • Ipswich and Cambridge viaNeedham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket.

Note that Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds stations will have a frequency of two tph.

The East-West Railway, currently being built between Oxford and Cambridge is proposing more improvements for Suffolk.

  • A new hourly Manningtree and Oxford service, via Ipswich, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket and Cambridge.
  •  A new A14 Parkway station, where the Cambridge and Peterborough routes divide to the North of Newmarket.
  • Tram-trains at a frequency of four tph between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Note that Ipswich and A14 Parkway stations willl have a frequency of three tph.

I also think that operationally, there could be another improvement.

Ipswich station has a limited number of platforms and expanding it will be difficult.

But I believe that operations could be eased, if the Ipswich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Lowestoft services were to be combined into a single cross-Suffolk Cambridge and Lowestoft service, with a reverse at Ipswich.

These routes between Cambridge and Suffolk will spread the Cambridge effect across the county and in return Suffolk will provide the housing and other resources that Cambridge needs.

People Will Be Working Longer

We are going through an employment revolution for those past retirement age for various reasons.

  • Economic necessity.
  • Some people l;Ike and/or need the camaraderie of working.
  • Some people have much-needed skills.
  • Some business owners and self-employed prefer working to retirement.
  • Flexible and part-time working is expanding.

A Suffolk Free Travel Pass would be used by a lot of those who are still working and paying Income Tax.

Healthcare

I have no figures, but I suspect in London, Freedom Pass holders are bigger users of the NHS and hospitals.

Healthcare in East Anglia is changing, with increasing dependence on the three largest hospitals at Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich.

This means that going to hospital for a check-up often means a fifty mile drive and a long hassle over the limited parking.

Published plans mean that Cambridge and Ipswich hospitals will be rail-connected at each end of Suffolk.

Would it be easier to use the train from many parts of Suffolk?

It should also be noted, that those with health problems, that need regular hospital visits in London, are issued with a Freedom Pass for travel, as it’s cheaper than sending a car.

Any county bringing in a free travel scheme would surely use it to help those needing to go to hospital regularly.

Greater Anglia’s new trains are all step-free, as this picture shows.

I believe that good rail-connected hospitals can improve the efficiency of the NHS.

Summing Up Funding

All of these developments across Suffolk will see a large increase in Suffolk’s economic activity and the consequent tax take from Council Tax and Business Rates.

I believe that Suffolk could probably afford to fund their share of a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Given the reduction in carbon emissions, that would probably occur, surely Government would contribute a share.

As Greater Anglia would surely benefit from onward journeys to and from London, they can probably afford to do a good deal for free travel in Suffolk. After all, they’ve already built in the capacity to their business model.

Restrictions On Use

There may need to be restrictions on use, like some routes apply in London.

For instance, using trains to and from London to perhaps travel between Ipswich and Stowmarket, may be restricted in the Peak.

It will all depend on Greater Anglia’s capacity.

Would It Work For A Group Of Counties?

I don’t see why not!

Perhaps instead of Cambridgeshire, orfolk and Suffolk, all having their own Free Travel Passes, would an East Anglian one work better?

Conclusion

If London can have a Freedom Pass, then why not Suffolk? Or other English and Welsh counties for that matter?

I have rambled through several ideas and possibilities.

But I believe that Suffolk with the powerhouse of Cambridge in the |West can see an improvement in economic activity, can go a long way to funding a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

This in turn could generate further economic activity and the tax revenue that would be generated to pay for the scheme.

Suffolk though is lucky in that it aslready has the rail network and Greater Anglia have purchased enough trains. Only a hanful of extra stations and some branch line reopenings would be needed.

I shall return regularly to this post.

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I think contactless travel, supported by single leg fare pricing, would be as much of a win as Suffolk freedom pass. The challenge (that exists everywhere) is creating a way to support railcard discounts with PAYG contactless (private schemes like Oyster can do this if the entitlement is single person based)

    Also a Suffolk version of young persons free travel/discount travel card (i.e. something like Oyster Zip 5-15); this could be implemented using contactless payment card technology with a restricted use debit card (same mechanism that Citymapper uses for it’s zonal pass scheme); advantage of this is it would also work on buses (paid for by parents, or requiring pre-load balance and readers to do online auth, tolerating some small unpaid for travel if the technology fails).

    Comment by MilesT | December 19, 2019 | Reply

    • It could be app based. One of the problems of a Freedom Pass I that if you want to go a couple of stations outside the zone, you have to buy an extra ticket. With the right sort of app, you should be able to touch-in and out and any extra could be charged to a credit card.

      I also feel that Freedom Pass is a trusted brand and could run a trusted on-line site, where you could buy the cheapest tickets given your various passes and railcards. It might even raise a bit of commission for the Freedom Pass.

      Comment by AnonW | December 19, 2019 | Reply


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