Rail passengers set for 30% price hikes
Rail fares could increase by nearly a third following suggestions from the Department for Transport (DfT).
As part of a review into the costs of the rail industry, Sir Roy McNulty, chair of the study, has recommended that there should be a full fare review across the whole industry, and the government has accepted this.
The Rail Value for Money Study recommends a practice called 'shoulder-peak pricing', where fares either side of peak times will increase to reflect the higher number of passengers.
"The DfT wants to taper the price of tickets either side of peak times as it can get so busy and congested with passengers," explains Alice Ridley, spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport.
Although the campaign welcomes a review into the rail industry, it is concerned that rail travelers are already suffering high train ticket costs:
"We feel passengers are already paying too much, what with the effects of inflation, and the ticketing system is already complicated enough," Ridley adds.
The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) warns that this practice could push up the price of off-peak fares by over 30% in the next three years.
Gerry Doherty, the union's leader, says fares are set to increase by 3% plus inflation each year – and the additional measures will see UK passengers paying even more than their European counterparts:
"If inflation stays around 5%, passengers are already looking at huge increases of more than 20% over the next three years for all fares. And now McNulty wants some off-peak fares to go even higher than that to ease overcrowding around the rush hours.
"We could easily be looking at a 30% jump in off-peak fares at a time when passengers are already paying the highest fares in Europe."
Doherty expects commuters traveling into London who stagger their journeys to get cheaper fares to be worst hit.
Other measures could also see staff numbers and wages under threat.
"We are also concerned that talk of increased staffing efficiency will, in practice, turn into cuts in front line staff," adds Doherty.
"Passengers want a staff presence on stations and on trains, both to aid security and to access the full range of tickets," says Alexandra Woodsworth, another spokesperson for Campaign for Better Transport.
The transport secretary will announce details of the government's full review, in response to McNulty's suggestions, to the House of Commons today.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).