Today as many people head back to work after the Christmas break they will be hit by yet another big train fare increase
It’s almost as if these January fare increases are now a twisted unfunny festive tradition like a bad game of charades or overcooked sprouts, and for many people dealing with the back to work blues they are hit with a double whammy of New Year misery, and yet again are asked to pay even more just to get to work.
It’s a bit of a mystery why the Government and rail industry chose to implement these fare increases now, as it is almost always a very quiet time of year for news and is open season for the media to channel the rage of commuters and transport campaigners like ourselves to say loud and clear, that enough really is enough!
ACTION: Tell the Government we need Fair Fares Now
Despite another big increase, we at Campaign for Better Transport will keep fighting until we have cheaper, fairer and simpler train tickets for everyone. You can help by sending a clear message to Chancellor George Osborne that we need Fair Fares Now and by using our Fares Vs Wages calculator to see how much your train fare has increased over the last decade compared to wages.
Fares Vs Wages
On average fares will increase by 2.2 percent today but overall by 2.5 percent. Whilst this is the lowest increase for 5 years, and is testament to the hard campaigning by ourselves, trade unions and other passenger groups, the very fact that Government and Train Operators are celebrating this is a shocking indictment of how much train fares have increased over the past decade.
The current Government policy is to raise fares by the Retail Price Index (RPI) figure of the previous July plus an additional 1 percent. Over the past ten years of successive Government’s sticking to this policy, fares have increased by more than 50 percent. For 2014 and 2015, the Chancellor has held fare rises to inflation, but that means they are still rising twice as fast as wages.
The Government’s problem of sticking to this regressive policy of year on year increases is that fares are increasing far faster than wages. Regulated ticket prices have risen by over 20 percent during this Parliament, whilst average wages are expected to have risen by just 6.9 percent over the same period. This has pushed some season ticket prices to over £5,000, meaning an increase during this Parliament of over £900! Paying for a season ticket takes an increasing percentage of average earnings, for example a season ticket from Peterborough to London, will take someone on an average salary a full 14 weeks of wages to pay off. This is causing real hardship for commuters across the country and we hear from many people who are being forced into life changing decisions like leaving their job or moving house as they are simply being priced off our railways.
Yesterday we heard that train companies will now have to tell passengers if they can get cheaper tickets for their journeys from ticket offices rather than Ticket Vending Machines. It's part of a code of practice being implemented by the Office for Rail Regulation from April this year, as for years passengers have been misled and are often sold much more expensive tickets at machines compared to what is available at the ticket office round the corner.
This situation should never have been allowed to happen in the first place! How is it that passengers are not always offered the best ticket price for their journey as a matter of course? It is nothing short of scandalous that this has been allowed to happen for so long and shows just how complex and confusing rail fares and ticketing are for passengers. This announcement only covers ticket machines - so it doesn't address split ticketing, meaning many passengers still won't be sure they are always getting the cheapest price for their journey simply because it isn't in the train companies' interests to sort out these baffling anomalies.
We need actions not words
2015 is a General Election year and we want to see all political parties commit to putting rail passengers first. They can do this with some very easy steps. First, rather than stick to the outdated formula of RPI inflation (which isn’t even recognised by the Office for National Statistics anymore) Government should move to the much wider recognised Consumer Price Index (CPI) formula which funnily enough is almost consistently lower than RPI. Fares should be brought in line with most other costs of living by linking it to CPI instead. Our research shows that this would bring fares in line with wages by 2018 and have minimal effect on rail revenue
Second the Government and train operators must stop dragging their feet over affordable tickets for part time workers. Our Labour market is changing rapidly, with 8 million plus part time workers and 1.5 million people on zero hours contracts but there is still no affordable ticketing options for this ever increasing workforce. By introducing flexible tickets this would potentially help millions of workers by introducing much more flexibility and ultimately affordability on our railways.
After years of above inflation increases it’s clear that politicians are starting to listen, but we could not achieve anything without your support. Thank you for your support in 2014 and a Happy New 2015!