UK rail users have reacted with fury to the latest round of fare hikes announced today (28 November)
Regulated tickets that include Season passes, Savers and Standard Day Returns, will increase by an average of 4.8% - 0.6% above inflation, while unregulated fares such as Cheap Day Returns, will rise by 5.4% - 1.2% above the retail price index.
”Passengers will be dismayed that fares are going up again, especially as on most routes they have o choice about which train company to use,” said rail watchdog Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith.
”This is the reality of the government”s strategy for our railways. Passengers should brace themselves for fare rises from now until 2014, as their contribution to railway services nearly doubles from ”5bn to ”9bn per year. They rightly expect a better service for this.”
The body has calculated that commuters in Kent will be hit hardest in the pocket with steepling Annual Season Ticket increases from Gillingham and Canterbury to London of ”244 and ”348 ” rises of 9.8% and 11.1% respectively. Annual fares for both routes will now total ”2,496 and ”3,132.
In a bid to counter the inevitable bad press, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has hit back. Rather bizarrely however, it claims its fare hikes are favourable when compared to real term utility increases of 21% and 56% for electricity and gas from 2000.
ATOC also points to the increasing trend for reduced subsidies from the Department for Transport (DfT), that is forming the background for successful franchise applications.
Around ”148m of premium payments will be paid by train operators in 2008/9, rising to ”1.28bn in 2014/15, while enormous long-term undertakings such as Crossrail, The Thameslink Project and the redevelopment of Birmingham and Reading stations will require vast cash injections.
”We need the revenue from fares to pay for the investment in the railway,” said ATOC director general George Muir. ”We are providing a higher-performing railway with new, refurbished and punctual trains, as well as better stations.”
However, ATOC's defence of the price hikes drew short shrift from a union representing transport workers.
”Rail companies are holding passengers to ransom every year and the government is encouraging them to get away with it,” said Transport Salaried Staffs” Association leader Gerry Doherty.
”This amounts to daylight robbery because many commuters have no alternative when it comes to getting to work. We need an altervnative not-for-profit railway ” then we can have an affordable system like the rest of Europe, rather than the expensively-run system we have at present.”