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Rail fares: The Government thinks we're fortune tellers

2 July 2008
Today Campaign for Better Transport reveals that walk-on rail fares are almost five times the price of advance fares [1]. The group has concluded that the Government must think we’re fortune tellers.

Public transport campaigner Cat Hobbs says “The Government’s solution to high rail fares is to offer advance fares. But we can’t always predict the future and so need a walk-on railway. At a time when people are facing increases in petrol prices, the Government is planning to make the green alternative, rail, even more expensive. The Government needs to invest more in the rail network so that people can just turn up at a station and go.”

Expensive walk-on fares are being highlighted on the anniversary of the publication of the Rail White Paper [2]. This Paper showed the Government plans to reduce its contribution to the rail network and have passengers pay more [3].

PHOTOS: A fortune teller, “Mystic Peg”, visited London’s Liverpool Street station in June to offer passengers her services. See photos of her trip below.

[1] Campaign for Better Transport compared the cost of walk-on and advance rail fares for single journeys between the largest cities in each region in England plus the largest cities in Wales and Scotland. On average, walk-on fares are 4.7 times the price of advance fares. The full results are online. A summary:

On average, how much more expensive are walk-on fares?


  • From Newcastle upon Tyne: 5.33 times more expensive
  • From London: 5.10 times more expensive
  • From Cardiff: 5.04 times more expensive
  • From Leeds: 5.00 times more expensive
  • From Norwich: 4.78 times more expensive
  • From Glasgow: 4.77 times more expensive
  • From Bristol: 4.72 times more expensive
  • From Birmingham: 4.49 times more expensive
  • From Southampton: 4.25 times more expensive
  • From Nottingham: 4.07 times more expensive
  • From Manchester: 4.00 times more expensive
  • Average: 4.69 times more expensive

[2] Delivering a Sustainable Railway, Department for Transport, July 2007 http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/whitepapers/whitepapercm7176/


[3] Government investment in the railway was £6.3 billion in 2006/7 (see http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/330-rev4.pdf, pg 62). The Rail White Paper shows that by 2014, the Government plans to halve its investment to £3 billion a year, leaving passengers to pay £9 billion (see http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/whitepapers/whitepapercm7176/ , table 12.1, page 128). In 2005/06, passengers payid 49% of the cost of running the railway; by 2014 they will pay 75%.

Case studies
Last July, the Government’s Rail White Paper talked of growing the rail network. But it predicted the growth would be paid for by passengers. Campaign for Better Transport isn’t too sure of that strength of that prediction. Every week, dozens of people tell the organisation they’re turned away from rail travel because of high rail fares. Three recent examples:

From Steve Nodwell:
"I live in London and am originally from Liverpool. Last year I became an uncle and was delighted with the news of my brother’s baby. Of course myself and my girlfriend wanted to get up to Liverpool as soon as we could to see the baby and be part of the big family occasion. We were deflated when we saw the price of the tickets. Even if we were to have waited two weeks to see the new arrival there were no reasonably priced tickets. We ended up reluctantly hiring a car for half the price of the two return tickets. We are both very aware of the negative effects of personal transport and neither of us owns or usually uses a car; however, when we are priced out of returning home for such important events we have to sacrifice our morals."

From Sue Hickey:
"Last Thursday I got a phone call from a radio station at 10:15am to say that I had won two VIP tickets to the Taste of London Show at Regents Park. I needed to get there by at least 1pm to make it worth my while. Well the thing that was almost putting me off was that I was going to have to pay a price of £32 to get to London from my home town of Southend on Sea. I do enjoy going to London but the price puts me off."

From Matthew Moll:
"I recently travelled to my brother's house in Newcastle from Huddersfield. Although I knew what day I would be travelling in advance, the time of arrival (he was coming back from a conference in London on the same day) was not known until it was too late to buy any cheap advance tickets for the train I would be travelling on. The ticket cost £32.20 with a Young Person's Railcard."