Train Price Rises Cloud the Issue

By | Category: Travel rumblings

January traditionally sees increases in the price we pay to go by rail, and in London, by bus and tube as well. This year’s rail price rises are not as great as in previous years because of the government formula (based on inflation) used. But this only applies to regulated fares. Unregulated ones, which include off peak fares, can be raised by what the train operators wish so increases of up to 6% are to be found.

Apparently, train fares in the UK are the most expensive in Europe. And although we are supposed to have competition, in truth monopolies still exist because we don’t have at least two train operating companies per line. For example if I want to go from London to Swansea, I only have First Great Western unless I want to go some convoluted route. If I go from just Glasgow to Stirling I have First ScotRail. There are some exceptions. I can go to York from London either directly by East Coast or by Grand Central and I can travel from Epson to London by South West Trains or Southern. But, by and large, monopolies, still exist and the constant messing around by governments has done little to restore true competition amongst different railway companies.

The alternative is to fly and it is often cheaper to fly to Glasgow, Manchester or Cornwall than it is to use the train. This year I went to Manchester three times from London and only used the train once – the reason, price. Is it because I have a choice? I can use BMI or BA or even Flybe from where I am.

So until we have some choice will fares just rise and rise?

Most of us know tricks to keep fares down. Travel to arrive after 10am, go in the middle of the week rather than Monday or Friday, travel at odd times and booking two single fares instead of one return ticket could be cheaper. But we shouldn’t have to be so devious. Fares should be transparent.

The fare from Plymouth to Southampton is £231 for an anytime return. But an off-peak return is £46.70 about one fifth of the price. Does anyone actually pay a full fare? I can get a mini cab between the two for less. What is the point of Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, pushing high speed trains if we can’t afford to travel on them?

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