Earlier in December the rail industry announced that train fares in Britain will rise by an average of 3.4% in January. Since the Conservatives came to power rail fares will have gone up by 32% – more than two times faster than wages.
At a time of rising prices and stagnant wage growth commuters travelling from Tunbridge Wells to London face increases of £160 to their annual season tickets, taking the fare from £4484 to £4644. An annual season ticket from Tonbridge will increase by £144 up from £4088 to £4232.
This newspaper reported that the journey from Tunbridge Wells to London is one of the most expensive routes in the country. According to a TUC analysis, season tickets fares on UK city commuter routes can be up to 6 times more expensive than in France, Germany, Italy or Spain.
Former transport secretary Lord Adonis said that Brexit had pushed up rail fares in their highest increase in 5 years. “There is no doubting the impact of the plunge in the value of the pound after the Brexit vote on people’s spending power. Nobody voted to pay more just to get to work.”
Over the last 12 months the Press Association has reported that one in nine trains have failed to meet the rail industry’s punctuality target, meaning that commuter service trains have arrived more than 5 minutes late at terminating stations, while long distance trains are 10 minutes late.
According to passenger watchdog Transport Focus, only 47% of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said that “Commuters have been repeatedly told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment, but promised investment has been cancelled and essential works have been delayed for years.”
Rail campaigners argue that the formula for calculating fare increases is outdated. At the moment, the Government uses the Retail Price Index, which over-estimates real inflation, rather than using the more widely used and recognised Consumer Price Index, which would save passengers money.
They also point out that rail companies have failed to keep in touch with changes in the way we work, leaving many part time workers discriminated against by the current ticketing system. Over 8 million people work part time, and 1.5 million work on zero hours contracts, increasing the need for more flexible ticketing.
Decisions taken by government are making rail travel unaffordable for many and illustrates the failure of privatisation which has resulted in consistently rising fares, less reliable services, compromised safety and complicated ticketing prices.
Labour would stand up for passengers and bring our railways back into public ownership. We would deliver real improvement by capping fares, ensuring better and more reliable services, and making a programme of investment fit for the twenty first century. We would also encourage the expansion of public freight services that will help reduce road traffic, bringing the additional benefit of cleaner air quality.
We will be campaigning for these rail improvements outside main stations on 2 January.