Leading article: Time for a re-think on rail fares

 

Share
Related Topics

The travelling public is, unsurprisingly, indignant at the news that rail fares in England are to rise by 6.2 per cent in January – double the rate of inflation. Indeed, some fares will increase by as much as 11 per cent. And for services that are often overcrowded and unreliable.

The Government argues that the extra money will help fund the huge investment needed to make up for decades of neglect. In the past, the cost of the railways was split roughly 50-50 between passengers and taxpayers. But at a time of deficit reduction, the aim is to shift the balance so that those who are doing the travelling pay more.

On the surface, the case sounds fair. The reality, however, is rather more complex. After all, the railway is both a common good – available for use by us all when we choose to use it – and also a direct benefit to drivers. The more people there are on the trains, the fewer cars there are on the roads. Rail is also the greener alternative: ratcheting up rail prices makes a mockery of efforts to persuade drivers out of their cars. Most compelling of all, it is commuters, who have no choice about when they travel, who are being hit the hardest, effectively subsidising the irregular traveller.

The Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, claims inflation-busting increases are unavoidable, for the next five years, in order to fund the massive upgrades needed to cut future costs. But the result is some of the most expensive train journeys in Europe, and all too often a service that is at best mediocre in return. The rail network certainly needs major investment. But huge fare increases are not the only answer. As the McNulty report revealed, Britain's fragmented and inefficient network costs 40 per cent more to run than its French equivalent. Stronger leadership, structural change and a full review of all ticket prices are necessary.

Rail should be the cornerstone of our national transport infrastructure. At any time, such sharp fare rises would be problematic. With incomes squeezed and the economic outlook bleak, they are wholly unacceptable. It is time for Ms Greening, and her colleagues at the Treasury, to think again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Content / Copy Writer

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: IT Desktop Deployment Engineer

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A prestigious IT & Telecoms Sales and Su...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants - GERMAN SPEAKING

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Rochester by-election: UKIP did less well than expected (and Labour suffered a malfunction)

John Rentoul
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Shanghai  

Is Russia and China’s ‘Nato of the East’ more than a Potemkin alliance?

Nigel Morris
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines