/ Travel & Leisure

Rail fare rises are a blow to those feeling the squeeze

Ticket master on train

If you commute to work by train, were you stung by a price rise when renewing your season ticket? With the average price of an annual season ticket increasing by 3.1% you may feel that prices are going off the rails.

Last month our chief executive shared some tricks of the trade for finding the cheapest train tickets – from split tickets to buying singles rather than returns for some journeys.

One tweeter told us they’ve swapped train transport for walking to work as an extreme measure to cut back on travel costs:

Costly commuting lines

But there isn’t always a way round the rail networks. Only 30% of people are planning to spend less on transport in the next few months – which could be due to the inability to switch to another form of transport.

Our research showed that just three in ten(30%) trust the rail industry to act in their best interests – less than those who trust the banking industry (33%). And on average, households spend £530 a year on public transport with 30-49 year olds spending the most – £744 on average.

And only six in ten (59%) say they feel able to complain, which is one of the worst scores across all industries we looked at, with only trade services (53%) and long-term financial products (51%) scoring less.

Price increases result in better service?

Neal shared this tweet:

Perhaps the fare hikes would be easier to stomach if improved service and complaint resolution were part of the package? How are you dealing with the price hikes and have you found a way to tackle your travel costs?


” Our research showed that just three in ten(30%) trust the rail industry to act in their best interests -”

I am concerned that anybody feels that any company acts in the best interest of its passengers, subscribers, or customers. The best interest of a company is never likely to be that of its customers other than a short term coincidence of views.

Is it just me or is the question actually intellectually dishonest ?

Certainly we should rail at companies that are inefficient, sloppy, rude, pay obscene salaries, avoid taxes, and rig terms and conditions. To ask if they are run for their users benefits seems a bizarre assumption about how private enterprise works.


Agreed, dieseltaylor. Many conversations suggest that companies should act in the best interests of their customers, as if this is their overriding priority. They act in the best interests of their shareholders first – without shareholder investment the company will go out of business. However a key element of success is to provide a product or service that satisfies their customer base – without customers they will also go out of business. Just needs putting in context.


Railways are expensive to operate. For decades, little real money has been invested – mostly because of the daft privatisation introduced by Thatcher, which didn’t encourage long-term investment – in fact it positively discourage investment.

We need to ask two questions:

1. Should commuters’ rail fares be subsidised (tax breaks or government subsidies) or should the railways have to pay their own way as a commercial business rather than a vital service?

2. Are railways really the solution to commuting (really, who in 21st Century would design a form of transport that uses trains weighing 100s of tons with steel wheels running on fixed steel tracks)?

We need a 21st Century answer to the problems of twice daily mass commuting.

Phil says:
7 January 2014

The 21st century solution would be to work from home via an internet connection but it’s not possible for everybody.

There doesn’t seem to be any other transport solution that won’t require a massive investment in infrastructure which isn’t going to happen overnight or be cheap.


The government is contemplating spending upwards of £50B on HS2 for a handful of commuters in 2025. Does that seem a wise infrastructure investment?

Phil says:
7 January 2014

So replacing the 19th century railways with a 21st century transport alternative would cost how much and be ready when?

Dave says:
9 January 2014

Yes, yes it does.

No-one really knows how much it will cost, yet many are debunking the idea on cost grounds.

It is vital for future prosperity to enable more people to commute into the large cities. In other words, you can take HS2 from quite a way away, or you can get the local (victorian) lines which will have increased capacity once the express trains are moved onto the high speed line.

Whats not to like?


Terfar, re your point 2:
Who in their right mind would design a transport system where inept people can drive vehicles in opposite directions on a strip of wet tarmac with 6 feet (sorry, 2 metres) between them at a closing speed of 120 mph (190 km/h)?
Two 21st century solutions are to reduce the need for commuting by moving the concentration of jobs away from the overcongested cities and to stagger working hours.


So long as we decline to disperse jobs to provincial places, where less expensive housing might also be avaialable, we need to enable the metropolitan areas to function, so restraining the impact of home-to-work travel costs through government financial support is a justifiable use of public money, especially since there is no practicable [and lessexpensive] alternative means of transporting the numbers involved within the time available. In fact there is no more efficient, safe and environmentally acceptable way of moving large numbers of people than by train. Economical it is not, however, because of the massive capacity provision that has to stand idle for long periods each day and throughout