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Old 4th Aug 12, 18:36   #1
jamesredfunnel
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Default Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Bit of heat over the last week on the IW press about ferry prices, so i got my head down on thurs and put our thoughts to paper - bit of a tome i am afraid, but some may find it interesting. Have said it all before to many passengers and many times to the MP.

http://bit.ly/NquBNN

please pass it around if you get a mo, as there are a lot of myths out there, and we all probably need to do a better job of explaining this stuff
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Old 4th Aug 12, 19:31   #2
Skipcool3
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Interesting read. I have always felt that RF offer a better quality product on the Car ferries and the on-board self-service offering is also better.

I do wonder in this day and age where the pressure comes from to operate the red jets at the sort of speed quoted..... are they most fuel efficient at 35+ kts?
Would the passengers get too grumpy if journey times were extended by 5 mins or so?

I also sometimes work on the water, as a commercial skipper; we have seen the SRN4 hovercraft and HSS retired on fuel grounds, (with the exception of a single day return to Dublin) and no seacats in the eastern channel.... Can any of us see fuel getting cheaper in the future?
It is a similar scene in aviation, with most modern jet aircraft being slower, retirement of Concorde etc.
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Old 4th Aug 12, 19:39   #3
rogerpatenall
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Would that every business that I do business with have a ceo such as this, James. Not myself a user of the IoW services, but thanks for sharing this.
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Old 4th Aug 12, 20:29   #4
fastcats
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Hi james,i remember back in 2004,RF started a service from GOSPORT to SOUTHAMPTON while the boatshow was on,useing RJS 1&2.
Encluded in the ticket price was a return fare for the GOSPORT ferry for anyone comeing over from portsmouth.
I did the second trip on first days service,as i wanted to get some photograpths of the red jet arriveing/departing portsmouth harbour for the first time.
When i was on board the RJ(second trip),one of your managers was on board going around asking passengers what they thought of this new sevice,and would they like to see it/use it if it was made an all year round service.
I had a chat with him and told him about the COWES/PORTSMOUTH service that ran from the gosport ferry portsea pontoon,around 1992/3 useing the Hydrofoils SHEARWATERS 5 & 6.
I told him that i used this service about 20 times,and the foils had some good passenger loadings,mainly at weekends,but at other times,the foil would leave portsmouth with no more than about 6 passengers,sometimes,with no passengers,or would carry a good number of passengers one way,but no one on board comeing back.
I found that the RJS on the gosport/southampton,& later,gosport/cowes,the same thing happend,some very good loadings at weekends,but also carry a large number of passengers one way,empty comeing back.
Looking back to those services,i am sure that if RF had cut the price of a day return(i think it was around £10.00,if bought in advance,about £12.50 on the day)a lot more people would have used that route to southampton.
I used the RJS from gosport many times(i still have all the tickets)and i found it was by far the best way to travell to southampton,but at the end of the day,i am a solent ferry enthusiast,and as such willing to pay for the RJ service,most people would rather pay the £6.00 return on the train,or cheaper still.£5.00 return on the bus.(2004)
One other point is that i think the following year,passengers had to pay for a seperate ticket for the gosport ferry,so adding to the cost of a RD ticket.
If ever RF run the sevice again to southampton/cowes,run it from GUNWARF QUAYS,i am sure you would get very good passenger loadings from here.
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Old 4th Aug 12, 22:12   #5
Seashore
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

A fascinating read James, thanks for sharing it with us.

Unfortunately these days there are plenty of "customers" who believe that they should get things free or at a reduced just because of some special extenuating circumstance which means that they should be exempt from paying the going rate. Usually these circumstances are neither special, extenuating nor worthy of a reduction, and in fact to do so would create a dangerous precedent. Like you say, no company goes in to business to make a loss, they go in to make a profit and provide a return on investment that is better than just leaving the money in the bank.

That has been much discussed about BF recently who admit to making a loss and whilst we might like our own particular sailing on a backwater route at some odd time in November at a really low price with a free cabin, it's not commercially viable to do so. You're the guy with all the figures for your business and much as people may want the odd extra ship on here, a deserted Red Jet crossing there, free food and buy one crossing get ten free, customers can vote with their feet (aka wallets) but at the end of the day it's not a committee (things run by committee are almost inevitably an organisational disaster) so feedback can be given when requested and appropriate and acted on when sensible.

I also think you make an excellent clarification about revenue management for transport which those who disapparage BF's use of it should read too. I personally think that it is the way forward in the current age of "digital openness" where it is no longer possible to charge different segments different prices because people do shop around to find the lowest price, and indeed use it every day in my own non-transport orientated business. I disagree strongly with the recently revealled practice that BF use of hiding the true passage element price until after add-ons such as cabins have been selected (resulting in a higher price than had they not been and thus meaning those who book earliest probably won't be paying the best fares with BF) but I have been using RF's booking engine for years and have noticed it gradually change and improve and in particular the removal of the Premium fare and replacement with a Premium Upgrade (which I often use) with total price clarity. Brittany Ferries could learn an awful lot from Red Funnel.
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Old 4th Aug 12, 22:31   #6
Seashore
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Quote:
Originally Posted by fastcats View Post
If ever RF run the sevice again to southampton/cowes,run it from GUNWARF QUAYS,i am sure you would get very good passenger loadings from here.
Having lived in West Cowes, it was often not too inconvenient to take the ferries from Ryde. I'd rather go Hovertravel for the experience (and I just don't mean hovering, the set up was vastly better) but it was a bit of a walk to Gunwarf but not unpleasant at all on a reasonable day. Wightlink did have the advantage of docking nearer the shopping centre but it was still a bit of a walk as there was no short cut so you have to do a U-shape around the railway station. Taking into account Ryde pier, the hovercraft usually won it for me. Although I would actually prefer to travel Red Jet, I just wish that I could pre-book tickets and book a time but this is just additional cost to add to the operation and there was only one occasional where I failed to get on.

That said, most people from Ryde/Shanklin/Sandown would go to Portsmouth/Southsea and most people from Cowes would go to Southampton. From Newport you could just as easily go to either although Cowes probably has the better bus connections. Out of a choice of the two I'd usually opt for Soton as the travel connections were just as good (if not better, particularly to London), the shopping is better at West Quay than Gunwarf, and then there's Ikea which is always fun for a bit of a trundle around. I also found Soton more pleasant than Pompey which I always found a bit rough in more ways than one; Southampton certainly felt like a modern city whereas Portsmouth was like a trip to the docks. No offense to Portsmouth lovers/residents, it's just a personal view that I prefer Southampton which is a bit more "polished" and less "utilitarian" along with the atmosphere that goes with it.

Would many people go from Portsmouth to Cowes? Probably not because the two operators there are quite long standing with a lot of advertising and reciprical agreements in place with third parties, they all have through rail or coach agreements for their respective routes and would have to set those up for a new route with National Rail to make them viable. They also have day trip agreements with attractions and that would cause an awful lot of hoo-haa if RF were to try to muscle in on this or be seen to be taking customers away from the east of the island to the centr/west. The Cowes outbound market is not enormous (the towns in the east of the Island are much bigger) and for inbound it doesn't have as many attractions as the eastern coast with it's beaches and tourist attractions, whilst Newport travellers would have little problem getting to Ryde. And finally, Blue Funnel Cruises run occasional shopping trips from Cowes to Portsmouth and whilst they're not high speed, if the crossing were that successful they'd be running more services and competitors would already be on the route.
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Old 4th Aug 12, 22:38   #7
elCercado
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seashore View Post
things run by committee are almost inevitably an organisational disaster
Wouldn't that include all limited companies (the board of directors)?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seashore View Post
I disagree strongly with the recently revealled practice that BF use of hiding the true passage element price until after add-ons such as cabins have been selected (resulting in a higher price than had they not been and thus meaning those who book earliest probably won't be paying the best fares with BF)
I was very critical of this practice, but I don't think it was affecting early booking - more last minute quotes when the cabins were almost sold out.
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Old 5th Aug 12, 00:02   #8
fastcats
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Back in 92/93,RF started the portsmouth/cowes route due to haveing 2 spare foils laid up out of service,so one of them was used on this new route,but sadly it just died of death,very few people used this service,in fact the very last trip on this route by foil was cancelled due to bad weather,of interest,the cost of a day return was around the £4.00 mark.
In 2004,RF had 2 spare red jets,so one was used on the BOATSHOW EXPRESS route,as i said before,most of the passengers carried was one way only,ie people visiting the boatshow,but very few paying passengers comeing back to portsmouth,had the cost of a ticket been about £8.00 return(a couple of £ more than the train)i am sure many people that live in southampton would have taken up the offer,the same thing happend with cowes week,good loadings to cowes,very few people comeing back to portsmouth.
WIGHTLINK ran a service from LYMINGTON to COWES week for a couple of years,same thing,every one comeing over to cowes,very few people wanting to travel back to LYMINGTON at midday.
I went to LYMINGTON to make the trip over by FASTCAT (also to take photos)but then came back on the next sailing,just 3 passengers on board,had WIGHTLINK charged again say around the £10.00 for a return ticket,i am sure many more people from the island would have taken up the offer and had a day trip over to LYMINGTON.
From what i have seen on other forums on here,BALMORAL is running trips out to view the races at WEYMOUTH,not many passengers on board due to the £55.00 per head,i dont know how many passengers she has on board each day(100 plus maybe ?)but if the cost of a ticket was say £20/25.00,she may well have as many as 400 on board,so would end up with less chance of makeing a loss,and end up in profit.
The moans & groans about the cost of cross solent travell will never go away,i use the ferries as a hobby,and if i want to travell on the red jets/hovercraft/carferries,i buy the ticket/s and enjoy the ships.
PS,seashore,when i said about RF running a service from GUNWARF,it would be for the likes of the southampton boatshow,cowes week,not a regular ferry service,as i have said already,a regular ferry service(from portsmouth) has failed to catch on,kind regards,FastCats.
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Last edited by fastcats; 5th Aug 12 at 00:42.
Old 5th Aug 12, 07:43   #9
fastcats
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I think that when RED FUNNEL/WIGHTLINK run trips like the cowes fireworks,view the liners leaving/arriveing,some very good passenger numbers are carried,but if RF say offerd just a cruise around the solent,but the cost of a ticket was the same as a cowes firework cruise,very few people would take up the offer.
Looking at my old press cuttings,old copies of swashway,the views from the travel experts at the time all said the same type of comments,that the traffic(passengers)generated would at special events(southampton boat show)would likely to be in one direction only,as very few people would pay the high cost of a ticket back to portsmouth,as other forms of transport gave much better value for money.
Some passengers useing the red jet boatshow express said that they left the car at home,and used the service to commute to work in southampton,they said it was faster journey times(35min)and a stress free trip,but at the end of the day,the cost of tickets was just to much to use the service full time,also you could only buy a ticket for a day return,no weekly/monthly tickets to help bring the cost down.
I for one thought that the RED JET service to southampton was great,it was a shame that it didnt catch on,but maybe next year RF could run a few trips from GUNWARF to the boatshow,or cowes week,as i have said,you would get some good passenger loadings for these events,also,bring passengers direct to GUNWARF,& historic dockyard from southampton/cowes.
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Old 5th Aug 12, 08:46   #10
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Default Re: Ferry Pricing across the Solent

Thanks for a very interesting document James and one for once not written in 'management speak' but in easily digested plain English.

I think the talk about operations from Gosport etc. is all icing on the cake really and would not impact much on the bottom line which is really governed by getting the regular service patterns and their associated fares in the right balance.

Clearly James and his colleagues have given, and are continuing to give, a great deal of thought to this and it is obvious that there are no 'with one bound he was free' easy solutions to bringing fares down. There is only so far you can go with cutting costs before a noticeable and probably unacceptable deterioration in service/standards results.

If fuel costs are such a large proportion of operational costs then running more uneven timetables is clearly a good option. When I take my car over to the Island I book in advance and select a sailing as close as possible to my ideal time but, being a tourist, the actual time is not really critical as long as I know I have a booking and can get there within the time frame I want. So fewer off peak sailings would not bother me too much if at all. After all, if you are going over to the Island for a few days or maybe a week then sailing an hour or so each side of your 'ideal' departure time is little or no hardship.

Day trips are a good way to mop up spare capacity at relatively short notice with the low fares being offset by limited availabilty.

Failing any public subsidy, then I think that commuters just have to pay up for being able to travel at exactly the time they want - there is nobody else in a position to defray their costs!

As for events such as the Festival, I agree that it is OK up to a point to take advantage of the demand to raise prices on the critical days as long as it is not too excessive and that cheaper alternatives are offered before and after those days to prompt people into looking at coming a bit earlier or staying over which smooths out traffic flow. Traffic flow, particularly of the wheeled variety, is limited by maximum ferry capacity anyway.

As for excursions, I agree with earlier comments that those not associated with a particular event are unlikely to be viable. The Great British Public are not terribly interested in 'trips round the bay' these days. Waverley and Balmoral have to visit most of the UK coastline to keep going and returns are marginal at best. However, when excursions are run then the fares need to be attractive. I was interested in doing either the Three Queens or P&O trips but at £55pp I really couldn't justify the cost to myself. At £25 it would have been a no brainer but maybe that would have meant sailing at a loss - I don't know.

The average guy in the street is not terribly well versed in economics and often simply does not appreciate the costs which businesses with which he is unfamiliar have to bear or their relative impacts on the operational side - hence the 'most expensive ferry ride in the world' myth. I think Jame's letter goes a long way to exploding that myth and i hope it gets the circulation it deserves.
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