The Benefits and Demand Impacts of Regular Train Timetables

The Benefits and Demand Impacts of Regular Train Timetables


M Wardman, J Shires, W Lythgoe, ITS, University of Leeds; J Tyler, Passenger Transport Networks, UK



Some railway administrations, such those in the Netherlands and Switzerland, have adopted regular interval train timetables. These railway authorities regard the benefits of regularity to be self evident and have taken policy decisions without any empirical evidence in support. Whilst we do not dispute that there are benefits of regularity, there will be instances where its implementation incurs additional train operating costs and thus it is essential that the impacts on demand, for financial appraisal, or on the willingness to pay, for economic appraisal, are firmly established.

Although there has been an enormous amount of research into the valuations and demand impacts of the key timetable related service quality aspects of journey time, service frequency and interchange, and there is also an emerging body of evidence relating to the reliability of service delivery, there has been very little research into the benefits of introducing a greater degree of regularity into timetable planning. We are aware of only two empirical studies in this area. One study analysed variations in rail ticket sales data after the introduction of a regular timetable between London and the East Midlands (Rail Operational Research, 1995), and produced promising but inconclusive evidence regarding the demand impacts. The other study (Kottenhoff and Lindh, 1996) used SP methods to examine regular timetables but only as part of a broader examination of train service quality.

There are various dimensions to what is loosely referred to as regularity and its measurement is not straightforward. The three key dimensions are ?clockfacedness?, even interval and memorability. What is termed clockfacedness means that trains depart at the same time each hour whilst even interval means that the time between train departures is the same. Both these are regarded to be benefits to travellers since departure times will be easier to remember. However, some train departure patterns, such as 00, 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour, are more memorable than others, such as 5, 20, 35, and 50 minutes past the hour or 8, 23, 38 and 53 minutes past the hour.

There are also a range of other issues, such as permanence across, for example, peak and off-peak, different days and different periods of the year, and the status of additional trains which supplement an otherwise regular service.

This paper reports research funded by the Future Integrated Transport Programme of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department for Transport. The collaborating partners are the Institute for Transport Studies, Passenger Transport Networks, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies, Eden Business Analysis and SMA of Z├╝rich, with the Strategic Rail Authority as observers.

The aims of the research were to test the hypothesis that regular timetables are valued by travellers, to establish how much they are valued and variations across key characteristics of travellers and their journeys, and to determine the extent to which these benefits translate into demand increases.

As part of this study, two related strands of research are being pursued to examine the impact of regular timetables. These are an SP based study focussing upon the valuation of the benefits and econometric analysis of ticket sales data to determine the demand impacts.

SP exercises have been conducted where individuals considered the features of the timetable in the context of their likely future travel on a specific route. Surveys of train travellers were conducted in late 2002 and over 2000 questionnaires have been completed. The SP exercises contained journey time, fare and different types of train departures. Various levels of frequency were offered, since timetable information is less important at high service frequencies where the proportion of travellers who arrive at the station at random is higher, and at each level of frequency different patterns of clockfacedness, even interval and memorability were included. Models are being developed to estimate the values of these timetable features and how these vary with key variables such as frequency of travel, source and level of timetable information, direction of travel and whether the timetable features relate to the departures from the origin station or to departures from an intermediate station where interchange is required.

The econometric analysis is based on variations in rail demand across different rail routes. A large demand matrix of over 30,000 observations is being analysed. An index representing the clockfaced, even interval and memorability features of the timetable is to be entered into the model alongside the more conventional independent variables to determine whether there has been any significant impact on demand. In addition, the model will be enhanced by using the values estimated in the SP analysis to determine an improved service quality index.

The results will be used to determine the revenue and broader benefits of a revised timetable structure to be produced for key routes in Great Britain which, as far as is possible, is built around the features of regular interval, clockfaced and memorable departure times.

h4. References

Kottenhoff, K. and Lindh, C. (1996) The Value and Effects of Introducing High Standard Train and Bus Concepts in Blekinge, Sweden. Transport Policy 2(4), pp.235-241.

Rail Operational Research (1995) Investigating the Benefits of Clockface Timetables.


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