Another New Year, Another Fare Increase

It seems a bit pointless posting about a fare increase on the first working day in January. It’s the same story as last year, and every previous year as far back as most of us can remember. The pretext for increasing fares is the same, too.

If you feel the need to read a purported justification for the fare increase, then a simple search for Rail Delivery Group or DfT press releases on the subject over the past few years will provide you with the same nonsense that gets used every year.

The only thing that is in any way different is that it’s no longer possible to pretend that passengers haven’t noticed that all the improvements which previous years’ fare increases were supposedly to pay for haven’t happened, at least not around here.

The Transport Select Committee’s recommendation was as follows:

We understand and sympathise with calls for, at the very least, a freeze of regulated fares in 2019 for Thameslink, GreatNorthern, Northern and TransPennine Express passengers. They do not deserve to see their fares increase in line with July’sRetail Price Index measure of inflation of 3.2%. Ultimately the level of fares increase up to this cap will be a matter of commercial and political will, but we accept the practical difficulties of applying a fares freeze within the current annual, inflation-linked system. However, around a fifth of rail passengers have suffered appalling services and been very badly let down by the whole system; a fares increase in these circumstances would confirm that the current fares system is broken. Establishing a clear link between passengers’ daily experiences of using the railway and the fares they pay must be a first order priority for the Williams Rail Review.

We urge the industry and Government to consider all options to keep any regulated fares increase in 2019 to a minimum, particularly on parts of the network worst affected by the timetabling crisis. We further recommended that 2018 Northern, TransPennine Express, Thameslink and Great Northern season ticket holders receive a discount, equivalent to any increase announced in December 2018, on renewed season tickets in 2019.

This was published on 4th December 2018.

We are the worst affected area, so an implementation of that recommendation wouold have seen a discount on season tickets for 6 months, effectively a six month deferral of the fare increase, which in SMART’s view is entirely justifiable.

As far as we are aware, the reaction of the Secretary of State, of the Department of Transport, of the Rail Delivery Group and of TransPennine Express is …………….. to not react at all. To pretend it was never said and to ignore it.

[Our apologies to the PR departments of any of those organisations if they have in fact responded to the Transport Select Committee recommendations but no-one in the outside world noticed.]

Ignoring that recommendation, and failing to acknowledge the scale of the disruption inflicted on passengers, is not a way to rebuild passenger trust and confidence either in those organisations or in the railway industry as a whole.

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