Ten rail capacity solutions that don’t cost the earth

  • Introduce more flexible pricing to flatten the peak. Passengers would have greater financial incentives to travel during the ‘shoulders’ of the peak, or indeed off-peak, thereby making more efficient use of existing infrastructure and rolling stock.
  • Phase out government subsidies and price controls so that fare levels better reflect industry costs.
  • Convert first class carriages into standard class carriages to accommodate more passengers.
  • Introduce high-capacity ‘economy class’ coaches with more standing room instead of seating (offering lower fare options).
  • Lengthen trains by adding more carriages and extending platforms. Double-length trains could even be used on busier sections and then split part-way through the journey.
  • Deploy improved signalling technology etc. to reduce the necessary gap between trains.
  • Consider using double-decker trains where the engineering costs would not be prohibitive.
  • Address bottlenecks by re-engineering junctions: relatively expensive but still much cheaper than building brand-new infrastructure.
  • Divert freight onto quieter routes, enhancing loading gauges where necessary. For example, intermodal traffic from Felixstowe to the Midlands and North can be sent via the Ipswich-Nuneaton route rather than the southern West Coast Main Line.
  • Allow full vertical integration to end the artificial separation between track and train, and between different franchisees and open-access operators. This would improve the financial incentives to make more efficient use of spare capacity.