Fair Fares

The UK Government has announced that in January 2012 rail companies will be allowed to raise rail fares by a whopping 8% (yes, that’s even more than the usual annual hike in fares), part of a 28% (!) increase over the next four years.
Please sign the Fair Fares Now petition calling for affordable rail fares here: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/fairfares/
There’s an article in the Guardian here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/16/rail-fares-rise-next-year?CMP=twt_fd
Also see http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/campaigns/fair-fares-now

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hidden europe
12 years ago

Interesting, Rudolf. I can see where you are coming from on this, but there is an alternative perspective.

Surely these are increases to the full fares, not to discounted products. I am always struck how, through most of Europe, commuters accept that they just have the same regular interval train service as that which prevails at off-peak times. Thus our local station in Berlin has three trains per hour from 6am till 10pm, 7 days a week. The cost of providing extra peaktime services for UK commuters is absolutely huge, leaving rolling stock unused for most of the day. And surely those who use those peak time services in Britain should pay the real cost of providing those trains. These proposed increases do not apply to ‘advance’ fares where – in terms of cost per mile – Brits who book well in advance benefit from some of the cheapest rail travel in Europe.

Nicky and Susanne
Europe by Rail

hidden europe
12 years ago

Thanks, Rudolf. Well, I checked with ATOC and they say this applies to ‘regulated fares’ – essentially full fare tickets (and to seasons which are derived from full fare tickets). They also say that in 2010 only 2% of long distance passengers used a full-fare ticket. All that said, you are absolutely right about the way in which individual travel decisions (eg. car vs train) are much influenced by fares. My point is merely that the UK system implicitly subsidises commuters and that seems very different from the situation elsewhere in Europe.

Nicky Gardner from hidden europe

Very good point, Rudolf. But between ‘advance’ and ‘anytime’ fares are ‘off-peak’ fares. The dominant factor driving the increases in fares in the UK for many longer distance journeys are the changes in the off-peak rules that are forcing more folk to buy more expensive fares. True, long distance commuters and peak-time business travellers are affected by the authorised increases in top-of-the-range regulated fares, but the average punter – folk like you and I – are much more seriously impacted (and adversely) by changes in off-peak fare rules.

Take a sample journey.

Inverness to London: the one-way ANYTIME (ie. top of the range fare) is £172.00. Book in advance, of course, and you could get the same journey for 17 quid (even on the prime daytime train, viz. the peak-time 07.55 departure on a weekday). A few early-birds will do that and that is a great deal. But some folk will turn up at the station and buy a ticket to go immediately. They will buy an off-peak ticket for £131.30 which is valid on any train, by any route. ‘Off-peak’ is in this case defined as the entire day (00.00 to 23.59). Looks strange, but for much of Britain ‘off-peak’ really was all day (and is some places still is) so ‘anytime’ fares exist but need never be used. But that’s changing, as companies ‘trim’ the off-peak band.

For just one pound more the happy punter can get a return, so £132.30 for Inverness to London and back. This is a whole lot better than two ‘anytime’ singles giving a fare of £344.00 from Inverness to London and back. For many, many travellers on longer journeys, it is has been irrelevant how high the ‘anytime’ fare is because there is no need ever to purchase it. It matters not if it goes up by 1% or 20%. There is no conceivable need ever to purchase it.

But just imagine…. If the train company changes that rule and says ‘off-peak from Inverness to London is valid on all journeys that start from 08.00 to 23.59. Then suddenly the one-way pay-and-go fare from Inverness to London on the plum departure at 07.55 will go up from £131.30 to £172.00 – an increase over 30%. These changes in rules are slipped in, and go unnoticed by the media.

I have always though that the media preoccupation with percentage increase in the top-of-the-range flexible fares and season ticket prices is a big red herring. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have season tickets from Swindon to London. The big issue that needs to be watched are changes in the rules that govern when tickets can be used. These can be tracked through successive editions of the National Fares Manual which gives the small print rules for each ticket.