The inflation busting increase in rail fares was shocking, but not surprising.
Our railways need investing in and clobbering passengers in the back pocket is one way of securing much needed investment. We get new trains, more carriages and a better service. So everyone is happy. That’s the theory. The reality is somewhat different. And don’t passengers, especially those on Northern lines, know it. If the fare increases were channelled into new trains, extra carriages, better stations and improved infrastructure then all well and good. Yet train companies know that most commuters have no option but to use the rail network, so prices go up even more on popular routes benefitting shareholders, not passengers.
It’s time for a re-think. Although public ownership would address many of the rail network’s failings, it isn’t likely to happen soon. So, what can be done? Firstly, rail companies should not be allowed to evade the fair increase cap, designed to protect paying passengers, but manipulated by some rail companies to boost profits on popular routes. Secondly, there needs to be a commitment to invest in new rolling stock on lines still using old tatty carriages.
Thirdly, passengers need to see real improvements so they can see what they are getting for their fare increases. Year after year ticket prices are justified as a means of securing rail investment. Yet all that’s happened on the Caldervale line is more passengers, same trains, standing room only. I was heartened to receive a letter this week from Metro outlining their plans to improve things on our local lines. They have some good ideas and, if implemented, passengers could at last get a return on their ticket increases.
And not before time.