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