What next for rail fares?

We already pay significantly more for rail travel than anyone else in Europe – 75% more than the next most expensive country

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Richard Hebditch is Campaigns Director for the Campaign for Better Transport

The urgent need for fairer railway fares has been highly visible across the media this week.

trainThe basis of passenger’s anger is threefold. First, fares are going up three times faster than salaries, continuing a decade-long trend of above inflation rises.

Second, we already pay significantly more for rail travel than anyone else in Europe – 75% more than the next most expensive country for the most common ticket types like season tickets.

Third, it’s unclear where it will end – the government has given a commitment to ending above inflation rises, but has set no date for doing this.

Why do our trains cost so much? The government rightly cites the investments being made in the network which is supposed to produce more reliable services and better stations.

This is pricey– the UK network is at its core still based on the Victorian network which is expensive to maintain let alone improve. The spending is needed to reverse many years of underfunding, but Network Rail is on target to cut the state’s share of spending on rail to 25% by 2014.

Is government’s spending value for public money? Undoubtedly so – on the economy, Network Rail estimates that 1 billion work-related journeys are undertaken on the railways every year. Pricing people off the trains and onto the roads – or out of work altogether – would be economically illiterate.

Rail is often more sustainable than other transport options, too. If public transport is too expensive – ‘a rich man’s toy’ as former transport Secretary Philip Hammond dubbed the railways – then poorer households are either less able to travel or completely reliant on the car, with all the attendant impacts on congestion and social isolation.

Railways make for good towns and cities. Development around railways tends to be higher density and less car dependent. This uses less land, supports existing communities and is the very antithesis of modern car-based sprawl which blights so many towns.


See also:

Will Osborne match his support for motorists with a fair fare for rail users? 15 Aug 2012

Rail investment irrelevant to those who can no longer afford rising train fares 17 Jul 2012

Network Rail fat cats to trouser £1.7m in bonuses – as fares skyrocket 11% 3 Jul 2012


Finally, we need a decent rail network if we are to get anywhere near our environmental responsibilities. Because it’s more efficient, a well-used train network produces significantly less carbon emissions than transport based only around roads. As such, rail is part of any serious emissions reduction strategy.

What next? Campaign for Better Transport’s Fair Fares Now campaign is an important focus for commuters’ anger. Before the fare rises kick in at the beginning of January, we will be pushing government to call a halt to RPI plus 3% – as they did last year – and matching the support it showed to road users in postponing the planned rise in road fuel duty.

Government must also make an announcement on when it will enact its commitment to end above inflation increases.


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14 Responses to “What next for rail fares?”

  1. LB

    And you’ve left off the tax that people who don’t use the railways are forced to pay for the fat cats who do.

    You’ve left off the debt that future generations have to pay. Standard government fraud. Just wait until civil service pension costs go through the roof. Not on the books, so no obligation to pay. That is the standard treasury line about why debts aren’t on the books.

    The plan is not to pay out.

  2. Newsbot9

    And as usual, you’re determined that ONLY the rich can use the trains.

    And even more usually, Blagger, you highlight your refusal to pay. When will you?

  3. rfewf

    people that use trains should pay for trains. ie no subsidy

  4. Newsbot9

    i.e. Trains for the rich.

    Right. I completely disagree, again, because I think a healthy economy is a good thing. Your wealth’s offshore, so you don’t have a stake in this either.

  5. mjg

    you have no idea where I live you idiot.

    now shouldn’t you be revising for your GCSEs?

  6. Newsbot9

    You’ve already admitted such under another one of your myriad names.

    Unlike you I actually have academic qualifications.
    You can’t extrapolating from yourself to everyone.

  7. fveve

    I admitted I live abroad? Can you quote me on that? I know where I live, and it isn’t ‘abroad’.

  8. Newsbot9

    Singapore, under another one of your myriad names.

  9. someone else

    no, that’d be someone else. I live in Berkshire.

  10. Newsbot9

    Yes yes, keep evading, like you evade tax.

    As usual, you have to make this all about yourself and your elitism, rather than the article.

  11. gteg

    even if I lived in singapore (which I dont), how does that make me a tax evader?

  12. Newsbot9

    Oh sorry, you seem to think I care when someone’s made an admission about their later evasions.

  13. blarg1987

    We need to make a decision on what we want, if we want what the right want a completly private rail industry then their should be no direct or indirect tax payer subsidy and it should be left to sink or swim. My personnal view though is that as the rail franchises expire, they should be brought back under state control so that the money that would have gone to share holders either goes to reduce the subsidy / lower passanger fares / open new routes / invest in upgrade of the infastructre, or a combination of all of the above.

  14. hy

    I admit to evading tax in Singapore. But as it’s legal evasion and I’ve never been there, fair enough I thought. I also evade taxes in Malaysia, never having been there either.

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