Travel News

Train fares: everyone knows they’re wrong, but no government is brave enough to fix them

Simon Calder’s Travel

Just when the trains could get no worse: seamlessly following on from the latest bout of industrial action, rail fares have increased. Someone who shuttles between Peterborough and London has endured 20 months (and counting) of regular strikes by unhappy rail workers, interspersed with frequent failures of track, signal and overhead wires. And they wake this morning to find the cost of commuting with an annual season ticket has risen by over £450.

It could have been much worse, the government insists. For reasons that no one seems able to recall, the annual fare rise each new year was set according to the retail price index in the previous July. The faintly arbitrary figure last summer was 9 per cent, which would have made that unhappy commuter £825 worse off. Instead, the rise is “only” 4.9 per cent. As an anytime ticket from Bristol to Cardiff or from Leeds to Manchester goes up by £1, a cynical passenger might conclude the figure was chosen for political expediency, allowing ministers to claim they had nearly halved the increase and kept it under 5 per cent.

The general secretary of the biggest rail union, Mick Lynch, called the rise a “slap in the face” for travellers, with “massive fare increases proving once again what a categorical failure the fragmented privatised system is”. But we don’t have a “fragmented privatised system” any more. Since Covid, the railways are effectively nationalised. The government tells train operators – many of which it owns – which trains to run and how much to charge.

The government, as well as Labour, are aware (I hope) that moving the fares needle by a few degrees this way or that is simply avoiding, and exacerbating, the real problem with rail fares. The whole system is rotten, unfair and full of anomalies. Between Bristol and London, for example, nobody who’s aware of “split ticketing” would ever dream of buying a ticket straight through. Much better to deploy the Didcot Dodge and save £40 by buying one ticket to Didcot Parkway and another from there. No need to change trains. So rife are such opportunities that Trainline (a private company) is running an ad campaign extolling the virtues of split ticketing. Meanwhile, prospective travellers perceive a baffling system full of traps designed to rip them off, and find another way to reach their destination. And I…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…