The high cost of travel

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Will Norwegian's entry into the ong haul market last week result in  cheaper transatlantic fares?

Will Norwegian’s entry into the long haul market last week result in cheaper transatlantic fares?

Recently the Department of Transport released figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics revealing that rail fares had risen sharply, yet motoring and air travel costs had declined.

Yet to the passenger this doesn’t seem right.

All three transport methods are ones widely used by holidaymakers and perception is important. We all seem to believe that rail travel has increased and this is made even more likely by all the media stories each January when the annual fare increases take effect.

Between 1980 and 2013, the cost of motoring declined by 12% but rail fares rose by 62%. What this doesn’t reveal is that generally cost of buying cars hasn’t gone up and the governments have been trying to get taxpayers to pay more for rail travel. Look at the same figures over a shorter period – between 2010 and 2013 and motoring costs have declined by 2% and rail fares have risen by 5%. Whichever way you seem to look at it, rail travel has risen disproportionally yet rail passenger numbers are up. We are not being deterred from train travel.


It could be because although prices have gone up we are more savvy about getting cheaper fares by booking in advance, travelling after 9.30am or using railcards.

The other set of figures that don’t look right are those relating to air travel costs.

When giving the figures in parliament, Robert Goodwill, a transport minister also produced figures from the CAA which showed that the “real cost of the average UK one-way air fare, including taxes and charges, covering domestic flights from 2000 to 2013 declined by 43% and from 2010 to 2013 declined by 3%.” Yet ask anybody who has flown and they would tell you that prices have risen.

So where’s the problem? For a start the words “real cost” aren’t explained so that might hide some things, Secondly, fares have jumped in the last 18 months as airlines have tried to maximise profits after some lean years. Thirdly these only cover domestic flights where there has been competition from rail and coach. Look internationally and a return fare to New York in winter is certainly much higher than it was two years ago and this isn’t just due to APD. A return fare to Malaga in August this year is higher on average than last year’s as well. Fuel prices have been relatively stable for a few years so it isn’t due to increases there.

Ask us – the traveller and the holidaymaker – and we will tell you that travel is getting more expensive. Providing figures that don’t tell the whole story won’t persuade us otherwise. We’ll just conclude that politicians and government is continuing to do what has been traditionally done. Only providing selective reporting.

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