Happy New Year on the Railways

Another new year, another fare increase.

It’s 3.4% on average, although there is quite a bit of variation within that. Individual fares may increase by more or less than that. Only a cynic would suggest that it’s fares on busy routes that will rise by the largest amounts, balanced out by lower fare increases on less busy routes.

One thing which doesn’t change from one year to the next is the pretext for the fare increase. The Rail Delivery Group (formerly the Association of Train Operating Companies) have a superb record on recycling, as can be evidenced by their press releases every time there’s a fare increase.

Whilst it’s gratifying to see the effort that Rail Delivery Group put in on our behalf in trying to find slightly different arrangements of words to say exactly the same thing, it turned out not to be the reality in 2004 and every year since then.

There are only so many times you can link fare increases to investment and improvement before passengers conclude that it’s BS.

So, for the sake of completeness more than anything else, here’s this year’s quote from Paul Plummer of the Rail Delivery Group (which was formerly ATOC – the Association of Train Operating Companies).

“Government controls increases to almost half of fares, including season tickets, with the rest heavily influenced by the payments train companies make to government. Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve. Working together, our plan will secure £85bn of additional economic benefits while enabling further investment and improved journeys for customers, better connections to boost local communities and a bright future for our employees.”

“Rail companies are working together to deliver more than £50billion of improvements, including private sector investment of £11.6billion on 5,700 new train carriages by 2021.”

Again for the sake of completeness, a series of quotes from previous years from RDG/ATOC spokesmen regarding fare increases. They all appear to be interchangeable.

“Fares have to rise to pay for the huge investment which the rail industry is currently making in the railways – which is the fastest growing in Europe.”[ 2 January 2005]

“Our railways are the fastest growing in Europe and operators will continue to introduce new trains, better passenger facilities and improved travel information.” [ 8 December 2005]

“While no-one likes to pay more for their travel, we need the revenue to pay for the ongoing improvements to the railways that passengers expect – and overall satisfaction levels are now at an all time high of 80%. Train operators will continue to raise their game, delivering further improvements to the railway and enhancing the travel experience of passengers.” [28 November 2006]

“The revenue from fares helps pay for investment that directly benefits passengers. Billions of pounds are now being spent to improve the railway and the results are showing through.” [ 1 January 2008]

“Fare changes this year will help pay for 265,000 extra services, all against a background which is determined by government policy to reduce the call on us as taxpayers. The fare changes actually in our view strike the right balance between trying to ensure a reasonable level of increase to fund in return much improved services.” [ 2 January 2009]

“We know times are tough for many people but next year’s fare increases will ensure that Britain can continue investing in its railways. Money invested through fares has helped to bring about the record levels of customer satisfaction and punctuality on the railways today. Passengers are already benefiting from record levels of investment in our railways. While we understand people won’t welcome any kind of price increases, it is important to remember that we need to continue and sustain investment in our railways.” [23 November 2010]

“For a number of years, the government has sought to sustain investment in the railways by reducing what taxpayers contribute and increasing the share that is paid for by passengers,” he said.

“The focus of the whole industry is to keep on reducing the overall cost of running the railways as a way of limiting future fare rises and providing taxpayers with better value for money.”

“Record amounts of money are being invested in better stations and more trains.” [2 January 2012]

And finally, here’s a quote regarding the January 2007 fare increases.

“This is very unwelcome news for passengers and will only underline the fact that things are really not right on our railways.”

It’s from the then shadow transport minister, Chris Grayling. I wonder what became of him.

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