Rail fare hike: are we really getting value for money?

Aug 19, 2014

Fares increase four times as quickly as wages but rail operators say the money is needed for improvement works

CARL DE SOUZA / Getty Images

Rail fares will rise by an "inflation-busting" 3.5 per cent in January, four times the rate at which average wages are rising, it was revealed today.

Commuters have been protesting at rail stations across the country following the announcement, Sky News reports. Ticket prices have increased by 25 per cent since 2010, while wages have risen by just 6.9 per cent during that time.

Labour has accused the government of "ripping off" passengers, claiming the increase is expected to add around £300 to the cost of many season tickets, the Financial Times reports.

Commuters are being "priced off the train and could be forced into agonising decisions such as moving house or quitting their jobs", Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport, told The Guardian.

Labour has announced plans to overhaul the rail system and is pushing for part-nationalisation of the rail network. The party argues that this would allow it to introduce a cap on annual fare rises on every route as well as giving commuters the legal right to the cheapest available ticket.

Unions said that privatisation had failed. "We've ended up with slower trains and higher fares than countries who have kept their trains in public hands," said TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady.

The government defended the rise, saying that removing the so-called "flex" rule that allows rail companies to introduce above-inflation price rises would result in "an uncosted spending commitment that would mean over £100m more government borrowing".

"We fully recognise there's more to do to bring down the cost of rail travel in Britain," said Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin. "But we need to do it responsibly and we can't spend money we don't have."

Michael Roberts, director-general of the Rail Delivery Group, told BBC Breakfast that the money was being put back into the rail system. "Money raised by fares has gone into investing in the network," he said. "We are investing in more trains, better tracking and signalling."

Nevertheless, the latest passenger survey revealed that only 31 per cent of travellers felt their train services delivered value for money, ITV reports.

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