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Poll shows that commuter anger over high train fare increases could decide seats at the next election

5 October 2010
74% of commuters (who take the train 4 to 7 times a week) in London and the Home Counties could switch their support away from parties that introduce a rise in the cap on rail fare increases

The online poll, conducted by YouGov for Campaign for Better Transport, suggests that likely rises in train fares could lead to seats changing hands at the next election as commuters express their anger at higher increases in train fares. Raising the cap on rail fare increases could lead to commuters paying up to £1,700 more for their annual season tickets by the time of the next election.

Government sources suggest that the Government will raise the cap on the annual rises allowed for most train fares from 1% above the RPI inflation rate to 3% above [1]. Based on official forecasts for inflation, this could mean that most train fares will be 37% higher by the time of the next general election in 2015 [2].

Examples of the rise in the cost of an annual season ticket by 2015 include:

•           Hastings to London:                   £6,337 (increase from 2010: £1,729)
•           Milton Keynes to London:           £5,269 (increase from 2010: £1,437)
•           Gillingham to London:                 £5,236 (increase from 2010: £1,428)
•           Reading to London:                    £4,659 (increase from 2010: £1,271)
•           Brighton to London:                    £4,268 (increase from 2010: £1,164)

The YouGov poll shows that 74% of commuters from London and the Home Counties who take the train 4 to 7 times a week would be less likely to support a political party that increased the current cap on train fares [3]. The votes of commuters and other regular rail users could be decisive in many of the key battleground seats in London and the Home Counties that changed hands in the 2010 general election [4].

Commenting on the poll findings, Campaign for Better Transport’s Public Transport Campaigner, Alexandra Woodsworth, said:

“The poll shows that commuters aren’t going to take excessive fare hikes lying down. Passengers have been promised ‘fair fares’ by the Government, and now many could be paying hundreds if not thousands of pounds more for their season tickets in just a few years’ time.

"We need to encourage more people to take the train, not price those who already do back into their cars.”

Notes to editors

1. The change from the RPI+1% formula to a new RPI+3% formula is expected as part of the Department for Transport’s settlement as part of the Spending Review, to be announced on 20th October.

2. Costs for season tickets in 2015 were calculated by Campaign for Better Transport as follows: Using figures from National Rail Enquiries for current season ticket costs, and official inflation forecasts for 2011 – 2014, the cost of a season ticket given inflation + 3% was calculated for each year up to 2015. Figures quoted include High Speed premium where applicable. National Rail Enquiries’ season ticket calculator.

The Office of Budget Responsibility’s forecasts for inflation are contained in the June Budget report.

3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4217 adults. Of these 1415 were from London and the Home Counties, and of these 284 take a train at least once a week and 165 take a train between 4 and 7 times a week. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st-4th October 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative on age, gender and social grade.

4. Examples of marginal constituencies with high levels of commuters and other rail users include:

•    Croydon Central: 20.6 million annually use West Croydon station
•    Basildon South and Thurrock East: 2.5 million annually use Basildon station
•    Watford: 3.6 million annually use Watford Junction station
•    Brighton Kemptown: 13.8 million annually use Brighton station
•    Stevenage: 4.3 million annually use Stevenage station

The full data outlining marginal seats, numbers of commuters and ticket cost increases to 2015 can be seen online.

Station use represents annual passenger journeys from the station. Figures are from the Office of Rail Regulation.