End of the line for cheap tickets as rail fares 'rebalanced'

At three minutes to seven on Friday evening a train leaves London's Euston Station in the direction of Manchester, virtually empty. As its few passengers glide serenely through nearby Watford Junction, the British Transport Police are scrambled to the platform from where it has just come, controlling the mad scrum of passengers fighting for a seat on the train that follows it only minutes later. The former is the last of the pricey "peak" trains, the latter the first off-peak service, and therefore considerably cheaper.

This "fares cliff edge" is just one of many problems that will be under consideration in a full review of rail fares announced by the Government, which may see some ticket prices dropping but others rising.

This review was itself one of several recommendations made in a broader report on rail industry costs by the former Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Roy McNulty, released yesterday.

He called for the fares review after concluding that the current system was overly complex and was not managing periods of peak demand as well as it might. The report said: "The study does not recommend an increase in fares revenue overall, but instead envisages some fares increasing and others decreasing correspondingly, within the same revenue total."

As a consequence some sought-after off-peak fares, such as those operating on Friday evenings just as the rush-hour ends, could increase in price.

Responding to the McNulty review, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said the Department for Transport would conduct "a full review of fares policy, including addressing anomalies in the current system and the potential for much greater use of smart technology".

UK rail fares are already the highest in Europe, with season ticket holders having to fork out for an average rise of the RPI rate of inflation plus 3 per cent in January 2012.

In his review, Sir Roy said rail costs should be 20-30 per cent lower than they were in 2008-09. He proposed cost-cutting measures which could deliver savings of between £700 million and £1 billion annually by 2019.

Sir Roy's report also said wages paid to rail staff were too high and working hours too short, and some ticket offices may have to be "done away with".

The review highlighted 10 key barriers to efficiency in the country's rail system, including the role of the government, the fares structure, and the way in which "major players in the industry have operated". It rejected the need for line closures, but called for "devolution and decentralisation" within Network Rail.

Sir Roy said: "It is an imperative on the industry to give taxpayers and passengers a better deal than they are getting at the moment. The problems we have are substantial but they can be fixed."

The general secretary of the RMT union, Bob Crow, condemned the report, saying: "Attacking staff, ticket offices and jacking up fares, while the train operators are handed gold-plated franchises, is just an escalation of all the worst practices of privatisation."

The recommendations

* There should be no line closures.



* Franchising should be reformed.



* There should be "devolution and decentralisation" within Network Rail.



* A Rail Delivery Group should be set up to "lead a substantial programme of change".



* The use of smartcards should be accelerated.



* The expectation that salaries at all levels of the railway industry will increase ahead of inflation must end.



* The overall trend to continually reduce the length of the working day and the working week is unsustainable.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape