/ Travel & Leisure

Why are we being priced off the railway?

Train tickets and coins

Train fares are up again, this time by record amounts. Some will face an 8% rise on their ticket price, but what will they see in return? With growing demand for rail travel, shouldn’t we be getting more for our money?

The formula for rises in regulated fares (like season tickets and long-distance off-peak tickets) is the previous July’s inflation plus 3% for the next three years.

That inflation figure has just been announced to be 5%. So that means that come January next year we can look forward to an average of 8% rises for those tickets. There surely won’t be many people seeing a pay rise of anything like that amount.

How many of us will be affected?

It’s not as if these are obscure tickets used by a few people. According to the latest Office of Rail Regulation figures, there were 1.4 billion passenger journeys on franchised train companies (the vast majority of train companies are franchised) in 2010-11.

Of that 1.4 billion, 597 million were season ticket journeys. Given that there are lots of other types of tickets included in regulated fares, we must be talking about well over half the journeys made every year.

Even worse, some will go up by much more than 8% – up to 13% is allowed under the rules, so long as other fares go down.

And if you were unlucky enough to have one of the big rises last year (such as commuters from Tonbridge who were hit with nearly 13% extra) there’s nothing to stop that happening again this year – or in future years.

Even worse, there’s no link between the prices scooting up and the service you get – paying more for the same, or even more for less.

Passengers are being priced off the railways

The government wants passengers to pay more – and taxpayers less – towards the huge cost of the railways. But as no one asked for spending on the railways to rocket, this seems unfair.

One of the ways it can cut spending is by pricing people off the railway – which seems to be what’s happening. What happened to making public transport more attractive than going by car? With such high petrol prices, now is the time to be promoting the benefits of rail travel, and yet the opposite is happening.

Demand vs supply

Demand for rail has certainly gone up – there were just over 1 billion journeys in 2003-4 against the 1.4 billion now. But in what other industry is demand seen as a problem?

Of course there is a limit to how many people can be carried by a train system, but a) it’s a limit that can change with advances in technology, planning etc – and b) that’s not our problem as farepayers or taxpayers. Shouldn’t we be encouraged to travel by train rather than priced out altogether?

The government argues that the extra money is needed for investment. But there are parts of the country which have seen very little rail investment for a long time. London is the exception, and the government also seems willing to spend many billions on the high-speed Iine to Birmingham, but is this enough to justify the price rises?

Will the latest rail price rises make you stop travelling by train?

Yes, I'll look for other ways to travel (46%, 169 Votes)

I'll reduce my train journeys when it's practical (35%, 129 Votes)

No, I haven't got any alternatives to train travel (20%, 73 Votes)

Total Voters: 371

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I wouldn’t mind the price rises if I was sure that the money was being reinvested rather than to pay for dividends. It’s not just the Train Operating Companies that take dividends, it’s the train builders and the Rolling Stock Operating Companies. All 3 of which used to be run by BR whilst NOT taking a dividend.

So there is no way for example that the north can reduce overcrowding by just ordering a few more carriages because all trains are no in fixed formation and involve lengthy procurement processes as it is all private. In the days of BR, if you needed some more carriages, you would just order them (agreed it isn’t as simple as that) but it was much easier.

Fare rises just pay for the people up top to cream more profit of us. This is a national scandal that we are subjected to because we have no alternative. Considering the amount of private companies/subcontractors/consultants that the private model supports, we are in a no win situation.

HS2 is the first bit of forward thinking by any government in years. You are wrong to suggest that this would suck investment out of other areas of the railway. I would suggest you have a look at all the improvement projects that are underway at present and are planned. HS2 will be funded in the same way as HS1 and Crossrail, but I guess we can’t afford those either?

These fare rises are NOT designed to pay for HS2, so please stay impartial on this debate.

Is this off the back of the new EU rules that are being rolled out soon? ie train fares can go up by 50%?


As a season ticket holder this news is not welcomed by me. I already pay more than what I believe I should be on the train so an 8% increase would really cheese me off.

You touch on a very interesting point above. The government introduced this so called plan to make public transport more attractive yet on the face of things rail travel can actually be so much more expensive than by car.
Lets look at the facts – if I make a return trip, booked two weeks in advance from my local train station to Leeds it costs £77.20. For that I have to make two changes and be on the train for over 3 and a half hours. Two single tickets would cost £143.

By comparison, the same journey by car would take 2 hours 50 minutes and cost only £60 in petrol for a round trip. Forgetting about the ongoing cost of owning a car, I am saving myself £17.20 here and 40 minutes of my life. I also get the added benefit by car of not being stuck to a particular travel time, being able to carry more luggage and being able to stop for a bite to eat when it suits me.

Why would anyone with a car sacrifice that for a stuffy, noisy train and pay an extra £17.20 for the privilege. Oh, and that’s before the possibly 8% price hike!


tpoots, you mention ‘forgetting about the ongoing cost of owning a car’. Out of interest, can I ask what it is that makes you say that? The depreciation, insurance, repair etc. costs are significant after all.


If you want more people to use the trains then they have to be subsidised which means more tax – simple ?
Oh and provide free/cheap parking at the stations for passengers.


All Rail company has got one common goal to bring down passenger on road by 2015 !…….They all profiting like oil companies. Every year, we saw rise in fare.Rise in their car parking. It is time to bring back all rail companies as a BRITISH RAIL.
Many passengers are shocked by their massive rise when their pay package is frozen and economic condition is worsening day by day.
One hand Govt says that they would like to encourage more road users to use public transport and leave your car at your home. It is reverse message to the public,use more car and leave the expensive transport system at Govt. door step !……..Govt should invite all budget airlines companies to jump in to rail service sector or collaborate with Indian rail. They are more capable and passenger friendly and with affordable fare,they can make massive profit.


Can anyone really say that they are “shocked” though really?

And can anyone really do anything about it?

The answer to both questions I suspect is “no”. Even consumer groups can only ensure that these rises are “transparent” rather than “abolished”. So that is what we are seeing in the news today, consumer groups “raising awareness” to ensure that no-one is caught short by the rises.

I don’t know which I prefer, being shafted or being told that I am going to be shafted yet I having no choice but to pay. This private monopoly created by the government has to stop. I still have yet to see exactly what the so-called “competition” has helped improve and where there actually is any competition at all.

Let’s take the London commuter routes as an example. You have no choice but to take the train operated by the franchised TOC on that route. Surely competition would actually ensure that one could take a train run by MORE than 1 company on that route, instead people can only take FCC, FGW etc etc depending on where they live. That is not competition.

If there were 2 TOCs for each suburban route and each Intercity route, we would at least have something tangible to compare them to. As it stands we have no competition at all just a rack of incompetent bean counters who take as much money out of the taxpayer as they can.

A scandalous state of affairs really.


I’m not sure you logistically can have proper competition on a route.
There is only 1 physical line.
Someone has to allocate ( by auction?) the slots on the line.
You probably want to subsidise some services or make sure that companies dont just cherry-pick the most profitable “slots”.
Its not like the road system and coach companies with no restriction due to infrastructure – and look how little competition there is for long distance coach/bus services.

Maybe not for profit companies are the answer – but how to encourage efficiency and development ?


Exactly my friend.

It’s sold as competition yet it is anything but competition. I agree it’s impractical to have more than one company running the same service, but what we need is a definition of competition and why it is good for the UK railways.

For example Virgin have had exclusive access to intercity trains on the WCML for years whereas on the ECML, open-access operators have been allowed to give real competition. What happened? that’s right, GNER went to the wall, as did NatEx. Wherever there is real competition on a route, the main operator will go bankrupt.

That is a massive flaw in a “competitive” system