The government has outlined its vision for better rail travel in the UK. But will these proposals genuinely improve train travel for you?
A more reliable train service. More trains across a bigger network. A modernised customer experience. Smart ticketing across all train companies, improved accessibility, better wifi, compensation and redress when things go wrong. The list goes on.
Sounds like a rail utopia, right? Well, it is, in fact, the government’s vision for rail and described as the biggest change since privatisation.
Future of rail
Thousands of people have told us about their hellish experiences travelling on the trains. The Government’s new rail strategy promises to tackle some of the everyday problems passengers face with poor service and overcrowding…
We know overcrowding is getting worse with an extra 1.5 million passengers compared to twenty years ago.
One supporter of our rail campaign, Louise, told us:
‘Every morning on my commute I crush myself into strangers’ armpits – that’s if I’m lucky and get on. It hurts your back to stand sometimes as there’s pressure from all sides. I can’t even get my phone from my bag.’
In some places, the rail network is overcrowded and struggling. The government will address this with plans to reopen lost rail links and resurrect some of the 5,000 miles of tracks closed in the late 1960s to try and ease overcrowding.
Talks to reopen five commuter lines have begun and expansions include lines from Okehampton to Exeter and from Portishead to Bristol, a new passenger route through Birmingham and a new link from Ashington and Blyth into Newcastle.
For those in the North of England, look out for shiny new trains as the government plans to replace every train in a mass overhaul of ageing carriages.
Another campaign supporter Helen told us what it’s like to travel on old trains:
‘These trains are freezing cold in the winter with little or no heating, and in the summer are boiling hot with heating on full blast! The seats are dirty and carriages are generally smelly.’
We’re apparently going to see a real change in the way the Network engages with passengers, working much more closely with local franchises and communities to address problems.
Plans to create new teams with control over Network Rail and individual train companies in each area are underway. This is to make sure rail disruption is better managed and engineering work is coordinated.
To support this there will be a breaking up two of the country’s biggest railway companies to create smaller operators that are more responsive to local passengers’ needs.
Finally, we’ll see a new ‘strong, fair, friendly and independent’ rail ombudsman that we’ve been campaigning for. This is to help give passengers a stronger voice against their train company and not be ignored when things go wrong.
Sick of paper tickets? Train companies have now been given a kick by the government and have a deadline to introduce smart tickets or contactless bank card travel by the end of 2018.
So what’s the cost of a rail utopia? Well, the government will be spending up to £34.7bn in the five years from 2019 to 2024 to fund a £47.9bn overhaul of the network in England and Wales.
The proposals are certainly a step in the right direction and we’re pleased to see the government address issues that passengers face on a daily basis.
However, while the government has set out how it will address the big issues affecting passengers, we want to see the government move quickly to deliver these changes so that people really feel the benefits.
Update: 5 December 2017
It has been announced that train fares will rise by an average of 3.4% from 2 January 2018. The rise will be the highest since January 2013, which saw a hike of 3.9%.
Regulated fares, like season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak tickets, will be affected by the increase. In London, transport fares, excluding rail services, have been frozen.
The Retail Price Index (RPI) is used to calculate train ticket price increases. Season tickets were capped at July’s Retail Price index which was 3.6%.
Our Managing Director of Public Markets, Alex Hayman, said:
‘This price hike will be another blow for passengers, many of whom continue to experience cancellations, delays, overcrowding and poor service from train companies.
‘For passengers to genuinely get value for money, they must be able to find the best ticket for their journey, cheaper fares must not be hidden and compensation must be paid where it is owed.’
Do you think train travel in the UK works well? Will you be affected by the ticket increases? Do you think the government’s proposals will fix the rail network? Will you see an old line reopen near you? Is there a line near you that you’d like to see reopened?