Facts: We can’t always predict when we’ll need to travel. What is more, the number of cheap advance tickets is limited and therefore they may be hard to come by, especially on popular routes. In fact only 2% of train journeys are made using advance tickets (House of Commons Transport Committee: How fair are the fares? Page 4). This is a problem because passengers who don’t book in advance have to pay much more. Walk-on single train fares are, on average, almost five times more expensive than advance fares. For example a single ticket from Manchester to Bristol would cost £59 if purchased on the day of travel however, if the ticket was purchased four weeks in advance it could have cost as little as £16 (prices correct November 2009).
Fact: Train travel has been growing but so have all forms of transport and train travel still makes up only a small percentage of the total travel undertaken in the UK. In 2007, 79% of the distance travelled by the average individual in the UK was done by car while only 7% was travelled by over ground rail (Transport Statistics Great Britain 2009, page 16). The statistics for number of trips made annually by the average person in the UK also paint a grim picture. Out of a total number of 992 trips in 2007 only 27 were taken using either over/underground rail while 637 trips were taken by car (either as a driver or passenger) (Transport Statistics Great Britian 2009, page 16). Clearly the majority of people are choosing their car as their primary mode of transport.
Fact: The overcrowding that is experienced by so many people on a day-to-day basis, especially on busy commuter lines, does not suggest that train travel is affordable. Overcrowding on trains instead indicates there aren’t enough rail carriages in use. Some rail operators increased rail fares in the past to reduce overcrowding which clearly (and intentionally) makes some journeys unaffordable.
What is needed is a reduction in train fares and greater investment in capacity in order to comfortably accommodate the numbers of people that use the railways today and in the future. According to the Office of Rail Regulation, ticket prices have increased by 22.7% in real terms between 1995 and 2009, and between 2008 and 2009 alone increased 7.6% (National Rail Trends Yearbook 2008 – 9, page 49). According to Passenger Focus less than half of passengers believe that the price of their ticket represented value for money (National Passenger Survey, spring 2009, page 6).
Rail ticket prices are higher than in the rest of Europe. Annual season tickets cost around twice as much as they do in other major European countries (Passenger Focus 2009. page 14).
Fact: Total Government's investment in railways was £6.3 billion in 2006/7 but only £5.2 billion in 2008/9, less than 1% of all government expenditure (National Rail Trends Yearbook 2008-9, page 56).
The Rail White Paper (page 128, table 12.1) makes clear that Government investment will drop to about £3 billion annually over the next few years.
Meanwhile, the aviation industry receives a ‘hidden’ subsidy from the Government of around £10 billion annually because it does not pay fuel duty or VAT on the fuel for its planes (Airlines revealed as country’s biggest tax dodgers October 2009). The Government spends £8 billion a year just to maintain roads, never mind the billions it spends to build new ones.
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