Train fares: Transport may be crowded and late but prices are still rising

Train season tickets have risen by 40% in five years… and ministers STILL want us to pay moreFares up by a whopping 40% over past five years since recession started
Some pay 5,000 to go to work and UK has highest ticket prices in EuropeTransport minister: The increase is only right to fund the huge investment

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UPDATED:

11:26 GMT, 31 December 2012

Train travellers have reacted angrily as they face fare rises of up to 10 per cent from this week – but rather than having sympathy for them, the transport minister has claimed the increase is ‘only right’.

Norman Baker countered the damning evidence from pressure groups of overcrowding and poor punctuality by insisting the Government is carrying out its biggest rail investment in two centuries.

The 55-year-old Liberal Democrat added that ministers are ‘determined to reduce the cost of running the railways’ in the longer term so ‘we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises’.

Price increase: Train travellers face fare rises of up to 10 per cent from this week

Price increase: Train travellers face fare rises of up to 10 per cent from this week

Mr Baker said: ‘Family budgets are
being squeezed, so that is why this coalition Government has taken
proactive steps to cut the planned fare rises from 3 to 1 per cent above
inflation until 2014.

‘This decision puts an average of 45
per year back into the pockets of over a quarter of a million annual
season ticket-holders.

‘Many more holders of weekly and
monthly season tickets could also see lower fares and some commuters
could be over 100 better off.’

Research by The Times found season tickets on some rail services have gone up by 40 per cent since the start of the recession. And car park charges are rising by 25 per cent year-on-year.

The Railfuture campaign group says
season tickets will increase by an average of 4.2 per cent on Wednesday,
the tenth above-inflation increase in a row.

Defence: Transport minister Norman Baker said the Government is carrying out its most rail investment since the 19th century and that it is 'only right' that the public should help fund this

Defence: Transport minister Norman Baker said the Government is carrying out its most rail investment since the 19th century and that it is 'only right' that the public should help fund this

The Association of Train Operating
Companies (ATOC) says the overall average rise, including non-season
tickets, will be 3.9 per cent, but with some non-season-ticket fares
allowed to be increased by an unlimited amount, Railfuture said tickets
could go up by 10 per cent.

Analysis by campaigners suggested that average train fares have soared by
more than 26 per cent since the start of the recession – a lower figure than reported by the Times, although it is still suggesting a rate almost three
times faster than wages.

Some
commuters are paying 5,000 a year just to get to work – and many will now be paying 1,000 extra than in 2008.

The Campaign for Better Transport says
the UK has the highest train fares in Europe, with some UK tickets
almost ten times the price of equivalent fares on the Continent.

Rail bosses have been accused of
‘spinning’ the full extent of the rises and ‘burying bad news’ by
insisting the average increase would be 3.9 per cent.

Expensive: Average train fares have soared by more than 26 per cent since the start of the recession - almost three times faster than wages

Expensive: Average train fares have soared by more than 26 per cent since the start of the recession – almost three times faster than wages

So-called ‘unregulated fares’, which
include some off-peak trips, can be raised to any figure train companies
choose. Many of these will far exceed the 3.9 per cent ‘average’ rise –
with some soaring nearly 10 per cent.

Railfuture spokesman Bruce Williamson said: ‘Yet again, rail fares go up with no perceptible improvement in service.

‘Over the last ten years, fares have increased by more than 50 per cent – much more than people’s incomes.

‘Meanwhile, petrol tax is frozen and
overall the cost of driving remains static. How does this help persuade
people out of their cars and ease congestion Where is the green
policy’

Train passengers have endured
widespread disruption, cancellations and delays over Christmas and New
Year – as well as pleas by rail bosses not to travel unless absolutely
necessary – caused by a combination of flooding, weather and engineering
works.

And damning government figures published this month named and shamed the most crammed ‘cattle-class’ services.

Bad service: Train passengers have had to put up with widespread disruption, cancellations and delays (file picture)

Bad service: Train passengers have had to put up with widespread disruption, cancellations and delays (file picture)

New ‘real time’ punctuality figures
have also shown that the worst-performing train companies are running
fewer than half their services on time.

This year regulated fares, which
include season tickets, can be increased by the retail price index
(RPI) inflation rate in July plus one percentage point. This gives the
average figure of 4.2 per cent.

Mr Williamson said: ‘Annual increases
should be limited to no more than the rate of inflation, and that should
be the consumer price index (CPI) not RPI, because that’s the lower
figure and pensions benefits and salaries are all linked to CPI.’

From Wednesday, fares are also going up by an average of 4.2 per cent on the London Underground and buses.

Mayor Boris Johnson said: ‘Investment
on the transport network will help us to provide faster, more frequent
and reliable journeys for Londoners and is crucial to economic
development and growth.’