Osborne's fare hikes just aren't fair

28 October 2010

It’s not easy being a rail commuter. You get packed in like sardines and subjected to whiffy armpits or severe halitosis on a daily basis. And, ladies and gentlemen, this ain’t for free!

So there was little surprise last week during the spending review when the rail service was targeted for cuts. Fares going up, as per usual – but this time by up to a mammoth 30%, as George Osborne does away with the cap on fares.

Fares are regulated at the moment, so they can’t suddenly just jump. The cap on the fare rise is set at the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation plus 1%. But from 2012, the ceiling is upped – to inflation plus 3%. If RPI sits at 4.8% over the next four years fares will rise by almost 30%.

Let’s put this in context. A yearly season ticket from Southend in Essex to London would rise from £3,624 to £4,711. That’s a difference of nearly £1,100 a year, an amount that could buy you at least two new bikes to cycle to work instead.

Thankfully, I no longer use the train services each day like I used to – after all, I doubt I could afford to now. You can travel a measly 25 miles on a ticket costing £10 in the UK. Compare this to Latvia – where you can travel nearly 400 miles for the same price.

The British rail network is so starved of funding already – which, surely, must account for the terrible service commuters often receive – that passing on further cuts to the passenger is like pouring lighter fluid on a bonfire.

But it’s not just rail commuters that will be affected by Osborne’s draconian cuts. London’s transport fares are set to rocket as well, by an average 6.8% from January – adding hundreds of pounds onto the average commuters’ travel bill each year.

It’s not like I can’t stomach a fare rise. It’s the duplicity of it all that I despair of. Life becoming more expensive with inflation happens every year. But transport costs are quietly hiked up in the hope we won’t notice, while the service gets no better.

I won’t wax lyrical about how annoying the railways are – after all, I could fill an entire novel with the amount of excuses I’ve heard trotted out time after time. This time, George, it just won’t wash.

Do you agree? Let me know below.