21 November 2013: As a rail fares campaigner it is rare to hear good news, so how refreshing to see that Wales and Scotland are both taking steps to make train fares more affordable.
Firstly in Wales the Government have committed to keeping season ticket price increases ‘below the rate of inflation’. This means that season tickets on all routes covered under this franchise are to be held to below the Retail Price Index of 3.1 per cent for January 2014. Regulated fares will still be allowed to be increased above the rate of inflation but this measure from the Welsh Government is a huge step in the right direction, and will mean less New Year anguish for Rail Commuters when they renew their season tickets on 2nd January 2014.
In Scotland things are looking even brighter for rail users as the Scottish Government have also committed to making fares cheaper. The ScotRail franchise that is up for renewal in 2015 has some ambitious minimum requirements including capping off peak fares at below the rate of inflation at RPI -1 per cent, whilst peak fares will be held at RPI 0 per cent. Other requirements include introducing smart ticketing across the network and the winning bidder paying all staff at least the National Living Wage.
What’s clear now is that Wales and Scotland are leaving England behind when it comes to rail fares. English commuters will be wondering how they can afford to pay for their season tickets as the eleventh above inflation fare increase in a row is levied on 2nd January.
With rail fare increases far outstripping wages, utility bills increasing and the general cost of living on a steep upward trajectory, English rail users will be asking why Welsh and Scottish commuters are getting a much better deal?
With many English commuters in marginal constituencies, there will be questioning into the fairness and affordability of travelling by rail in England, and these will surely get louder and louder as the 2015 General Election draws ever nearer.