If you thought your travel card was already extortionately priced, think again. Overall individual ticket prices in England, Wales and Scotland have gone up by an average 3.9%, and season tickets by 4.2% compared with last year.
You don’t need a degree in economics to clock that this is way above the rate of inflation, which at last reading stood at 2.7%. The increase is particularly painful because it marks a 40% increase in the cost of fares compared with a decade ago, whilst average incomes have increased just 18% in the same period.
According to the Campaign for Better Transport, this amounts to an increase of £1,300 pounds on the average season ticket over the last ten years.
The government insists that it has intervened to make sure that price increases are capped at 4%, but this will do little to assuage the anger of commuters trying to tighten their belt while the economy still wallows in near-recession growth figures.
The TUC’s Action for Rail campaign says that commuters and rail passengers throughout the UK will be forking out despite a decline in service – rail companies have plans to save £3.5bn across the network by 2019. Most of this is expected to come from job cuts.
However, the chief exec of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), Michael Roberts, places blame for the fare rises squarely with the government. He said: ‘Successive governments have required train companies to increase the average prices of season tickets every January since 2004 by more than inflation.’
‘Ministers want passengers to pay a larger share of railway running costs to reduce the contribution from taxpayers while sustaining investment in better stations, new trains and faster services.’
Still, rail minister Norman Baker says passengers can get cheaper deals and that tickets remain ‘not that expensive’ if they take advantage of off-peak prices and advance booking offers.
He said: ‘Once you take the basket of fares, include early advance and off peaks we are not nearly as expensive as is being presented. But the basic premise that we continue to veer on increase above inflation – no we don’t want to do that. We want to end the era of above inflation increases as quickly as we can.’
We’ll have to see it to believe it.