Rail price rises in 2014 will hit workers and families

By staff writers
28 Dec 2013

Commuters, environmentalists and transport groups are concerned about the impact of price increases by rail companies in 2014.

Firms are allowed to put fares up by much as two per cent above the agreed price-increase figure which, for 2014, is 3.1 per cent.

Among the fares announced this past week, annual season tickets for travel between Reading in Berkshire and London are up by 3.23 per cent to £4,088.

Meanwhile, travellers from Dover Priory and Deal to the capital see annual fares rising 3.04 per cent to £5,012.

Fares across Britain are to rise by an average of 2.8 per cent next year. This is the lowest increase for four years overall, but there are significant regional variations, and over the past five years a series of hikes has significantly outstripped both incomes and inflation.

Family budgets will be hit hard by the increases, with those already forced out of London by unaffordable rents and house prices now being squeezed by huge travel costs, say passenger groups.

Stephen Joseph, head of the Campaign for Better Transport, pointed out that season ticket prices would go up three times faster than wages.

He called on the government to stop using the RPI (Retail Price Index) figures to calculate ticket prices, saying that the index frequently overestimated real inflation.

"[It would have] little impact on railway revenues, but it would save passengers money and bring fares into line with things like public sector pensions," Mr Joseph said.

Politicians from a number of parties are also worried at the way people are being gradually priced off public transport.

Green Party of England and Wales leader Natalie Bennett commented: "This latest price hike is going to put a dampener on many commuters' Christmas, and be a boost to support for a private members' bill calling for the railways to be brought back into public hands.

"Travellers face overcrowded journeys as standard on too many routes, on the most crowded trains in Europe.

"They face immensely costly journeys, and they know that more than £1 billion of their cash is going into the 'black hole' of privatisation inefficiencies, plus billions more in declared and undeclared government subsidies.

"Casual users face a confusing fare structure that often leaves them paying more than they need or trapped with penalty fares due to confusion.

"It's time to say enough: privatisation has failed, we need to bring the railways back into public hands."

* Full Campaign for Better Transport analysis of the 2014 rail price changes: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/media/23-dec-rail-fares-formula-must-c...

[Ekk/3]

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