Leading article: Right track, wrong speed

Share
Related Topics

It is impossible not to welcome the principle of a simpler rail fare system, the first stage of which was introduced yesterday. Since privatisation, the system of charges has been a hopeless mess with little consistency across operators. It has been bedevilled by confusing jargon such as "Super Saver" and "Value Advance", dreamed up by the marketing departments of various franchises. There has also been little apparent logic underpinning prices.

The message on booking websites warning customers that it may be cheaper for them to buy two single tickets, rather than a return, stands as testament to just how downright confusing the system has grown. Anyone who uses the trains, or would like to do so more, will welcome a more straightforward system and greater transparency on prices.

This is not merely good for passengers, but the environment too. The train is, by some distance, the most environmentally friendly means of transportation available. If train travel is to keep pace with, and in time overhaul, the growth of domestic plane and car travel, it will require a fare system that people can have confidence in and understand.

But by the same token, it is impossible to welcome the way several of the franchise operators have gone about implementing this necessary reform. They appear to have used the opportunity to get rid of many of their cheaper fares. To take just two egregious examples, Virgin's Holyhead to Euston service will henceforth triple in price and passengers using National Express's Colchester toLondon service will face a 63 per cent hike. It is hard to resist the conclusion that the train operators are up to their old tricks.

Last week, the transport union TSSA revealed that the low fare rates advertised by National Express for travel between London and Glasgow in July were nigh on impossible to get hold of. And during the Christmas disruption on the west coast main line, the train operators made no attempt to alleviate passengers' misery by allowing them to transfer tickets for travel on to each others' services. This is not a sector with a record of putting its customers first.

Rail operators are not the only ones to blame, of course. The Government plans to reduce the subsidy to the rail system, despite the fact that rising demand for train travel means additional infrastructure funding is badly needed. Instead, ministers are allowing the rail companies to constrain demand by raising fare prices. This is strategic madness and a guaranteed way to increase carbon emissions.

A simplified fare structure is a start. But it will require a good deal more reform and investment before our rail service will be worthy of the name.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice