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Government promises to end inflation-busting fares while paving way for £1000 increases

21 January 2013
Campaign for Better Transport (1) has put Government's promise to end above inflation increases in regulated rail fares under renewed scrutiny following the release of investment plans. These assume the current fares policy will continue to at least 2019, raising ticket price - already the highest in Europe - by 22% from current levels.

Most rail fares are regulated by the Government using a formula that has raised them above inflation every year since 2004. The Government has publicly pledged to “end the era of inflation busting fare rises” (2) but has not named a date to do this. Recently announced investment plans from Network Rail (3) have built into them the expectation of an increased proportion of revenue coming from passengers through fare rises. Such an approach relies on continuation of the Government’s ‘RPI inflation plus 1%’ fares formula which has seen many fares increase by 50% in the last decade.

Continuing with RPI inflation plus 1% to 2019 would increase the cost of many annual season tickets significantly, for example:

Cambridge to London – £5659 – (up £1259 on 2013)
Chelmsford to London – £4553 – (up £1013 on 2013)
Sevenoaks to London – £4,002 – (up £890 on 2013)

The impact would also be felt by commuters outside the south east:

Liverpool to Manchester – £3601 – (up £801 on 2013)
Southampton to Portsmouth – £2670 – (up £594 on 2013)
Bath to Bristol – £1878 – (up £418 on 2013)
(See notes 4 and 5)

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

“For Government to plan increases on this scale is reckless. There is little point in investing billions of pounds in a network that only the wealthy can afford to use. Passengers must make their voice heard in calling for a fairer approach to ticket pricing.“

Campaign for Better Transport is pressuring Government to announce when it will end the above inflation formula and commit to reducing fares fares. This includes a petition on the 38 Degrees website is gathering signatures and be presented to the Department for Transport' ahead of the Rail Fares and Ticketing Review, expected to be published in May (6).

Stephen Joseph said

“Government's fares review is the best chance in a decade of getting spiraling fares back under control. Everyone who wants a decent and affordable railway should make their voice heard by supporting our campaign, adding their name to our petition or writing to their MP“


Notes to Editors

1. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

2. The Government committed in their March 2012 Command Paper Reforming Our Railways: Putting the Customer First that they would reduce and then end above-inflation rises in average regulated fares as soon as possible

3. Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan for England and Wales includes details of assumptions governing its expenditure plans to 2019. This includes the anticipated source of revenue, with passengers expected to pay an increasing percentage of the costs of investment in the network. Shifting the burden in this way ignores that spending is increasing in order to make up for under-investment in the 1980s and 1990s. It also overlooks the substantial benefits to society of having a network which meets the needs of modern living.

4. Projected season ticket prices to 2019 were calculated using 2013 fares from National Rail Enquiries and applying the Government's current formula of RPI plus 1% to 2019. Projections for RPI were taken from the Office of Budget Responsibility's Economic and fiscal outlook supplementary economy tables - December 2012.

RPI inflation is regarded by the Office of National Statistics as an inaccurate measure of the cost of living, and has recommended that it be replaced.

5. Examples of predicted annual season ticket costs in 2019 - London commuter routes

Cambridge to London – £5659 – up £1259 on 2013
Chelmsford to London - £4553 – up £1013 on 2013
High Wycombe to London - £4090 (up £910)
Portsmouth to London - £6004 (up £1336)
Sevenoaks to London –£4,002 (up £890)

Examples of predicted annual season ticket costs in 2019 – other routes

Middlesbrough to Newcastle - £2737 (up £609)
Liverpool to Manchester - £3601 (up £801)
Southampton to Portsmouth - £2670 (£594)
Bath to Bristol - £1878 (up £418)
Colchester to Chelmsford - £2464 (up £548)
Leicester to Birmingham - £4146 (up £922)
Burton-on-Trent to Nottingham - £2922 (£650)
Leeds to Sheffield - £2881 (£641)

6. The Department for Transport's Rail Fares and Ticketing Review is expected to report in May 2013. Details of the review can be read here.