Sophie Allain is a public transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport
The government launched its rail fares review today with the potential to be the biggest shake-up of our fares system for decades. But this review isn’t just for politicians and transport experts, passengers can and should get involved and we have produced a simplified form on our website which people can use to take part in the review and send their views to the government.
We’re also encouraging people on twitter to tweet their views using #farefail.
There are several things up for discussion in the review, but the main issues for passengers are likely to be tickets and staffing. The government says it wants to give us more ways to buy tickets and smartcards are one way they will look to do this, but it’s likely to be at the expense of staffed ticket offices.
The government will also be looking at how fares can be used to manage demand, i.e. keeping people off busy trains by increasing the cost of peak tickets whilst reducing the cost of less busy trains.
However, a poll we conducted showed this is deeply unpopular with passengers – 63 per cent believe raising fares on the busiest trains at a higher rate than other services is unfair for all passengers, even if it means lower fares on some less busy services.
It is no secret rail fares have become hugely expensive, having soared by up to 200 per cent since 1995. Fare rises of inflation plus 3 per cent for the next two years mean that by 2015 fares will be 24 per cent higher than they were in 2011.
Unfortunately there’s no sign that will be the end of it either, with the government committed to ending inflation-busting fare increases “at the earliest opportunity”, whenever that may be.
We know what we want to see come out of the review:
• Fares to start coming down to counter years of above-inflation increases;
• More capacity and more flexible working patterns to manage demand, rather than hitting commuters at the busiest times with additional fare hikes;
• The ability to top up your fare if you get on the wrong train;
• A part-time season ticket for part-time workers;
• A cap on walk-on fares so we don’t end up with a discount airline ticketing system where you have to book in advance and fare prices change by the minute.
After many months of waiting to have our say we need to make sure this opportunity to improve the fares system is not wasted, so please do take the time to participate in the review and have your voice heard.
• Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continent – Sophie Allain, January 3rd 2012
• Osborne’s climb-down on train fares shows this chancellor is for turning – Alexandra Woodsworth, November 28th 2011
• The railways: Yet another broken market in the UK – Ben Mitchell, August 19th 2011
• How the Government could keep train fares down – Richard Hebditch, August 16th 2011
• The McNulty review: The devil’s in the detail – Alice Ridley, May 19th 2011