UK Rail fares are set to increase by an average of 5.9% in January but this is 2% less than originally announced in mid-August.
Is it fair that all taxpayers fund rail travel or do rail passengers subsidise motorists? This is the age old question because for every passenger train, many cars are not on the roads, and for every freight train, dozens of lorries are not holding up other motorists.
On the other hand it is reckoned that the Government could be funding up to 50% on many tickets via taxpayers so it would be possible to argue the economic case either way.
Regulated fares increases take place in the first week in January and these include season tickets. Unregulated fares are changed in May and September and are largely dictated by passenger numbers on given trains. Unregulated fares are usually special deals and only valid on one train companies’ services.
For example, passengers travelling between Milton Keynes and London can choose between Virgin, London Midland and Southern. The prices vary between them and can cost over double at busy times.
Train companies are also allowed to change off-peak restrictions such as London Midland who are to extend the evening rush hour to 1900hrs taking two services out of the off peak period for example. First Capital Connect caused a storm a couple of years ago when they significantly extended their peak pours.
Fares between London and Manchester cost between maybe £20 and £399. The latter is over £1 a mile while a Middlesbrough to Whitby ticket costs EIGHT times less pro-rata at just £8.70 for the 70 mile round trip or just 12.4p a mile.
But, as with airlines and holidays, the earlier you can book a ticket, the cheaper the journey can be made – Red Spotted Hankey can assist here!
The railways suffered under investment for decades and there was a backlog of repairs and modernisation to catch up on. This, combined with the way the Government micro manage the railways has combined to make the railway expensive to run.
For example, the rail industry will have been working since August on producing the new fares and setting up the retail systems to manage the increase. The revised increase announced in the November Government statement will probably cost the industry a minimum of several million pounds in administration costs alone.
Fares are increased using the July rate of inflation plus 1% but the Government announced in October that RPI plus 3% was to be used. Today, it has scrapped its own new rule – hence the revised lower increase.
The Rail Industry leading magazine, Modern Railways in its latest issue for example, concludes that the Government has spent over £30 million on consultants to buy a new train, and the specification is not yet complete!
Much of the rail network has been improved with new trains, track and station facilities. New stations have been opened and the network is safer than ever and these are not cheap to deliver. We accept road accidents, traffic and air delays but generally, rail is far better and environmentally friendly than alternatives.
Passenger numbers continue to increase despite the economy and fares rises, so train travel can’t all be bad. After all, you can always drive………