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Campaigners call for action to tackle cost of rail travel

2 January 2015
Campaign for Better Transport has called on the Government to take action to tackle the rising cost of rail travel.

Martin Abrams, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said:

"The Government has pushed up many rail fares by over 20 per cent since 2010 and their policy could stretch the gap between fares and wages even more in future years. Everyone who relies on the trains for work or leisure is looking for action to end the price hikes and get fares down. The Government should start by reforming the discredited way it calculates future commuter fares and get on with introducing part-time and flexible season tickets, where progress has been mind numbingly slow."

ENDS
Notes to Editors

FARES INCREASES AND GOVERNMENT POLICY
1. New fares for regulated rail journeys (season tickets and some intercity journeys) were introduced on 2 January. The new fares show an increase of 2.5 per cent on 2014. Examples of what the increases mean in practice can be seen here.

DISCREDITED FARES FORMULA
2. Since 2003, it has been Government policy to set regulated rail fares using the formula of July's Retail Price Index (RPI) + 1 per cent. After policy interventions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 2014 and 2015 fares have risen by RPI + 0 per cent although no permanent change to the Government's policy of above inflation fares rises has been made.

Campaign for Better Transport has pushed for this formula to be permanently changed because:

  • It deliberately raises fares faster than inflation, making train travel less affordable
  • It is based on the inaccurate RPI measure. In March 2013, the UK Statistics Authority announced that RPI would no longer be designated as a national statistic because it failed to meet international standards. RPI usually shows a higher rate of inflation than CPI. For example, between 1996 and 2011, the cumulative inflation rate shown by RPI was 53.6 per cent while that for CPI was 35.6 per cent.

3. Campaign for Better Transport promotes the adoption of a fares formula of CPI + 0 per cent. In January 2014, Campaign for Better Transport published research showing this would bring the following benefits:

  • Lower fares: In the period since the RPI + 1 per cent formula was adopted, regulated fares have risen by 48 per cent. Over the same period, using CPI + 0 per cent would have led to increases of 30 per cent.
  • Reduced subsidy to railways: The percentage of railway operating costs met by passengers would continue its long terms rise, reaching 79 per cent by 2018-19. There would be only a 1.1 per cent fall in revenue received from passengers compared with a policy of RPI + 1 per cent (see research http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/Far...)
  • Increased passenger numbers: There would be a increase in annual passenger numbers of 88 million by 2018-19, a number which can be accommodated within planned capacity increases on the network

For July 2014, the 12-month rate for CPI was 1.6 per cent. RPI stood at 2.5 per cent (see Office for National Statistics).

FLEXIBLE TICKETING
4. Campaign for Better Transport supports the introduction of tickets aimed at part-time employees and those who work flexible hours. We are critical of the slow progress the Government has made in this area.

Season tickets for part-time and flexible workers are currently not available for the vast majority of journeys. This leaves the country's 8 million part-time workers with the choice of buying a full-time season ticket they do not need or paying the more expensive day tickets.

The Mayor of London has announced that tickets aimed at part time workers will be available on London transport from January 2015.

No similar initiative is available for part-time workers in the rest of the country. Department for Transport research into flexible ticketing has only recently begun and is not expected to report until 2017.

South east train operators have been invited to make expressions of interest in introducing carnet tickets. This is despite a pledge made in September 2013 to trial part time season tickets on a South East commuter route during 2014.