Press release 16th December 2020

Rail campaigners condemn inflation-busting rail fare increases.

Rail campaigners have condemned the announcement of inflation-busting rail fare increases in March.

“This really isn't going to help bring passengers back to trains” said Chris Page, chairman of the campaign group Railfuture. “This increase will come at a time when people are deciding whether to go back to work 5 days a week. Indeed there’s even a risk that it will result in even lower revenue for the government, by pricing people off the railways.

“The delay in implementing flexi-seasons will also reduce rail revenue. They are needed in March when people will be deciding how many days per week to go to the office. Passengers will vote with their feet and revenue will be less as they travel say 3 days per week with ordinary tickets instead of 4 with a flexi-season.

“The government continues to impose fare rises using RPI instead of CPI, meaning that rail fares have become less and less affordable over the years. To use RPI+1% is outrageous and completely unjustified. Things aren’t going to get back to near normal until about June at the earliest, so a 2.6% increase won’t generate much cash when there are so few passengers travelling. It will just annoy the very people the industry needs to be cultivating.

“Meanwhile fuel duty for motorists remains frozen, as it has been for ten years now.

“Rail staff may bear the brunt of this as they are already seen to be Government supported when ordinary passengers are losing their jobs.”

Notes to editors:

  • Government claims it is the “lowest actual increase for four years”, which is true in purely numeric terms, but at 1.6 percentage points above CPI (the accepted measure of inflation) you have to go back to January 2013 (last use of RPI+1%) to equal it (4.2% fare increase with preceding July’s CPI of 2.6%)
  • Given that the TOCs have ceased to be businesses and are now merely contractual-interface companies (to avoid the government becoming the employer, client of suppliers etc.) with the government receiving all revenue and paying all costs (apart from the open access operators who only set their own operator-specific fares) we expect that in England the same increase (2.6%) will apply to all fares, not just regulated fares
  • These increases are often presented as something the government ‘caps’ whereas fact that the government is actually imposing the rise.
  • The government has reintroduced the policy from 2003 of RPI+1%, rather do anything to control costs.
  • News articles have referred to CPI as the government’s “preferred” measure. RPI has not been an official government statistic for many years and the government has announced its intention to abolish RPI in 2030 and replace it with CPIH (CP plus housing costs).
  • The 1 March increase is being presented as being kind to season ticket holders. Whilst welcome, it is likely that this is simply because the government couldn’t decide in time for the implementation window for fare changes needed for advance sales.

The government's announcement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rail-fare-rise-to-be-delayed

Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk

Follow Railfuture on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Railfuture

For further information and comment please contact:

Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389
media at railfuture.org.uk