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Next week’s announcement will test Government’s ‘fair fares’ pledge

9 August 2010
Rail passengers are braced for next week’s Retail Price Index (RPI) announcement, which will be the first test of the Coalition Government’s commitment to fair pricing for rail travel.

On Tuesday 17th August, the RPI inflation figure for July will be announced, which will be used to set the rise in regulated train fares for next year. If the Government maintains the current formula for setting fares, passengers will be paying 6% more for most tickets when the change comes into effect in January 2011.

The announcement will shed light on possible divisions within the Coalition Government on fares policy. Before the election, the Liberal Democrats promised to cut train fares (by RPI – 1%). But statements from new ministers have suggested that above-inflationary prices will be maintained, or even increased. This could cause a political headache for the Government, given that many key marginal seats have a lot of rail commuters.

Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner Alexandra Woodsworth said:

“Every year, Government policy dictates that the price we pay for most of our train journeys goes up, and that’s not fair. Train travel is in danger of becoming a luxury for the rich rather than an essential public service.

“We’re calling on the Government to honour its commitment to fair pricing – and to being the ‘greenest Government ever’ – by reviewing fares to bring down the cost of rail travel. Particularly now, with high fuel prices, we need to make sure the train gives people a real alternative to driving.”

Campaign for Better Transport’s call to review rail fares is backed by 82 MPs in the new parliament.

Notes to Editors:

RPI: the July RPI rate is expected to be 5%, and current policy is to increase train fares 1% above inflation (RPI + 1%) annually, and RPI + 3% for Southeastern routes.

High fares: train fares in the UK are 20% above the European average. Since 1997, train fares have risen in real terms by 13% while the cost of motoring has fallen by 14% and the price of one-way flights from UK airports has, on average, dropped by 35%.

Cutting fares cuts carbon: reducing rail fares by 20% could increase low-carbon rail travel by 17%. Cutting bus and rail fares and increasing motoring and aviation taxation could cut carbon emissions by 13%. Source: Steer Davies Gleave, Transport costs and carbon emissions, December 2008.

Spending cuts: Campaign for Better Transport research shows that the Department for Transport can deliver ‘smarter’ spending cuts that protect affordable public transport. Lower fares make it easier for people to get to work or training, increase disposable income, boost the economy, and increase tax revenue. Download our Smarter Cuts report here: www.bettertransport.org.uk/spending-review-2010/smarter-cuts