Are the new fares fair?

22nd Jan 2018

The prices of all journeys in 2018 have been published and the numbers read for grim reading showing an overall average increase, just below the 3.6% government enforced maximum increase regulation. The price hike will affect all ticket pricing including season tickets.

Passengers in the North of England will see fares increase faster and higher than elsewhere in England with Northern (run by Arriva) increasing their prices by an average of 4.7% only narrowly beating TransPennine Express who are increasing their prices by 4.6%

In response to the 2018 price hikes rail operators have said “that the national figures are showing that the industry was attempting to keep down the cost of travel”. Unions have said it was “another kick in the teeth” for UK passengers who are paying the highest fares in Europe.

The average increase of train fares has once again outpaced wage growth as shown in the diagram below:

retail price index graph

The fare rises are shaped by the retail price index (RPI) inflation figures, however this is the largest increase passengers have experienced since January 2013 when fares rocketed by an average of 3.9%. Experts have blamed Brexit and the weakening of the pound for increasing inflation and the subsequent increase in rail fares.

The watchdog service Transport Focus said the fare increases would be a “chill wind” for passengers and commuters. Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Many passengers face stagnant or falling incomes while rail fares continue to climb. It is time that the fairer, clearer Consumer prices index formula is used as the basis for rail fare rises rather than the increasingly outmoded RPI.”

“While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days. Passengers’ immediate priorities are clear: a more reliable railway, better handling of disruption and better value for money.”

Train Station

Transport for London (TFL) who have frozen fares on a majority of their service since the beginning of 2017 (except for rail services where the fares are set by the government and private operators). Sadiq Khan (Mayor for London), said the price hike would infuriate Londoners: “People are rightly fed up. If I can take action with TFL and freeze fares while improving services, so should the government. It is about time the government stood up to these underperforming private rail companies”.

With the average cost of a Train Season Ticket costing in excess of £4500 per year, it is becoming more and more expensive for commuters to make the journey to work. Commuters spending on average 13% of their salary on commuting alone.

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