Letter: A fare price?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report on rail fare increases ("Train firms warned over rising fares", 23 October) might well have pointed out that we are now witnessing a reversal of the 10-year trend of rises above the rate of inflation. In the decade before rail privatisation, rail fares went up by 15 per cent in real terms - an average of 1.3 per cent a year. Now both regulated and unregulated fares are increasing by less than the rate of inflation.

Surprisingly few reports of the capping announcement have pointed out that this amounts to a passenger dividend of pounds 120m in the last 12 months alone. The fact that rail fares are now falling in real terms is hard evidence that the regulatory system works.

Regulation is not the only reason fare increases are being held down. The train operators are making strenuous efforts to encourage rail travel by offering a wide variety of special fares. Advance Purchase fares, for example, which are not regulated, have gone up by 3.8 per cent less than inflation since 1995-6 which has led to a 40-per-cent growth in usage.

The operating companies understand very well that their future success lies in attracting more passengers, and that will only be achieved by offering the quality of service the public demand at attractive prices.

JAMES GORDON

Director General

Association of Train Operating Companies

London WC1

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