Editorial: Let taxpayers share rail fare pain

Share
Related Topics

Another year, another inflation-busting hike for train fares. Season tickets went up by more than four per cent today and some "unregulated" fares (on non-commuter routes) soared by almost half. Nor is this a one-off hit to travellers' wallets. A decade of consecutive increases has left many commuters paying as much as 50 per cent more than in 2003. Cue much ire and another demonstration – this time at London's St Pancras station.

In fairness, there is no easy answer to the question of how to pay for the railways. The network is crying out for modernisation and expensive programmes such as electrification are long overdue. But although some increase in fares is unavoidable, there is a limit to what passengers can be expected to bear, particularly those relying on trains to get to work and with little choice as to where and when they travel.

There is, then, a reasonable case for taxpayers to meet some of the cost. After all, the rail network is a common good of benefit to all and decent – affordable – trains are central to encouraging drivers to make greener travel plans. But reform of our inefficient and fragmented rail industry, which costs around 40 per cent more to run than France's SNCF, must also be expedited. And more effort must be made to spread the investment costs more widely.

A shake-up of Britain's Byzantine fare structures would be a good place to start. Not only are passengers baffled by the incomprehensible array of tickets on offer, such a system is also hugely wasteful. An online bargain for one traveller simply bumps up the cost for their less organised, or simply less flexible, fellows. Equally, with money so tight, there must be a question mark over the availability of subsidised rail tickets to all over the age of 60, regardless of their financial circumstances.

To meet the railways' investment needs, the Government has pencilled in another five years of above-inflation fare rises. Yet England already has Europe's most expensive rail travel. More must be done to share the burden.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May  

It's not hard to imagine Prime Minister Theresa May standing on the steps of Downing Street

Jane Merrick
 

Karl Lagerfeld's latest Chanel show might have dressed itself up in feminism, but it was more embarrassing than empowering

Mark Izatt
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?