29 November 2011: The Government has scrapped its plans to raise the cap on regulated rail fares.
We have been fighting the planned hikes all year, and this is a victory for the campaign and for hard-pressed passengers – especially at a time of such economic hardship. It will save passengers millions of pounds, and is a big step towards getting the fair fares we all want and need.
The decision to raise the cap on regulated fares from 1% above inflation to 3% above inflation was supposed to be final. It was supposed to be necessary. But this U-turn shows that a vocal passenger campaign can make a big difference. Clearly, the Government didn’t relish facing the wrath of angry passengers, or the potential political backlash that could be dealt by the commuter vote.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that regulated fares will still rise by far too much in January: an average of 6% and up to 11% on some routes. The extra increases above the average aren’t necessarily tied to any improvements on the line, which leaves affected passengers justifiably bewildered and outraged as to why they should be penalised so much more than others.
We still have a lot of work to do to make fares fair. We have the highest rail fares in Europe, and they are still going up too steeply against inflation, when they should be coming down to help passengers, the environment and the economy. For now, the U-turn only applies to 2012, so we need to keep the pressure up to make sure the Government can’t revert to its previous plan of inflation + 3% for 2013 and 2014. We’ll be demanding that the Government now sets a timeframe for meeting its commitment to put the era of above-inflation fare rises behind us. And we need to tackle some of the mind-boggling oddities in our fare system and make tickets simpler and fairer. The review of rail fares policy, set to be launched in the new year, provides an opportunity to address all of these issues – and the good news is, we now know that when passengers protest loudly enough, Government can be made to listen.
So, to every single one of you who joined the campaign, signed the petition, wrote to your MP, spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, made a donation, helped out at stations, came to protests and much more – congratulations and thank you, and let's keep the pressure up to make fares truly fair!