Earlier this week Merseyrail announced they were not going to be re running the Christmas Cracker promotion.
This was a scheme which allowed people to travel more cheaply on certain days and times in the run up to Xmas. It was aimed at people going into the City centre to shop.
Merseyrail are saying that they won't do it this year because they are worried about overcrowding, because they don't "need" to do it (meaning the marketing objectives have been met) and that it makes less sense now to highlight late afternoon and evening on one particular day as there is late night shopping pretty much all the time now.
Some writers have agreed with the scheme being dropped, the Post and Echo's David Bartlett among them.
However I think Merseyrail is wrong for a number of reasons.
Firstly, as a general principle given all the worries about climate change surely we ought to be encouraging people to use public transport. This sort of promotion is aimed partly at people who have their own transport and it is designed to help them make the marginal decision about the benefits of driving in or taking the train. If the persuasion to take the train is removed, then surely they will drive adding to congestion and pollution.
Secondly although it is true that some trains are overcrowded (how about giving us six car trains on all the rush hour services from Hunts Cross for example instead of the shorter ones we have to crowd on to ?) this promotion was aimed at shoppers travelling in to the City in the opposite direction to commuters coming home. (Its also noticeable that Merseyrail is publicising more frequent trains on the line to and from Chester so surely that will help some of the crowding)
Finally if it is no longer logical to target the late night shopping day as it doesn't really exist any more, why not target instead the least popular shopping day as a way of helping both shoppers and traders?
Of course if there were going to be extra bus services in the run up to Xmas then it could be argued that the public transport option is still being promoted. But I have been researching into this and I can see no signs of extra buses planned by either Ariva or Stagecoach.
I'll be asking a question to the representative of MITA at the next full council meeting. As the administation has removed the right to ask supplementary questions however I may not get much from this. Perhaps the Councillors who represent Liverpool on MITA can follow this up (if that is they think the removal was a mistake)