Rail fare increases 'hardly the best way' to get back on track

09:43AM, Thursday 04 March 2021

Rail fares have this week increased by an average of 2.6 per cent – above the rate of inflation for the first time in seven years.

The Government has said that the additional 1 per cent rise above RPI inflation is to cover the costs of propping up rail services during the pandemic when fewer people travelled and revenues suffered.

The fare increase was delayed for two months to allow commuters the chance to renew season tickets at old prices.

Despite a seven-year freeze against prices rising higher than inflation, this hike ‘is the lowest actual increase in price in four years’, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). A spokesman said: “In total, the Government anticipates providing around £10 billion to protect the railway through its emergency agreements with rail operators.

“Passengers returning to the railway deserve punctual and reliable journeys at a fair price.”

The cost increase is down to the losses made during ‘emergency action’ to keep the trains running for key workers, transferring all revenue and cost risk to the Government.

Richard Porter, secretary of Marlow-Maidenhead Passengers’ Association, said: “The 2.6 per cent increase is hardly the best way to get the rail industry back on its feet as the pandemic is beginning to be brought under control.

“Freezing fares would have been welcome in these difficult times, but we hope that new ticketing options under discussion will work for part time commuters.”

Work is ongoing on attempts to mitigate the rail fare increase. The DfT says it has written to all rail operators to ask that they begin immediate work on developing a flexible season ticket.

These new flexible season tickets will be introduced across England this year. Once introduced, it could save commuters hundreds of pounds on their fares, the Government said.

A spokesman for operator Great Western Railway (GWR) said: “We continue to work with the Government to provide safe and reliable services during the pandemic and look forward to introducing more flexible ticket options to help support economic recovery from COVID-19 very shortly.”


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