Azara Blog: Unregulated rail fares going up a lot

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Date published: 2007/01/02

The BBC says:

Above-inflation price rises for rail tickets have come under attack from rail groups and opposition politicians.

Many areas' regulated fares, which include season tickets, have risen by 4.3% - about 1% above inflation - but some unregulated fares are up by 7.3%.

The Tories said the "galling" rises showed ministers had failed to sort out the railways. Rail watchdog Passenger Focus said fares needed simplifying.

But the Department for Transport said they "want the railways to grow".

On many main lines it is the fourth successive year in which tickets have risen by more than inflation.

Train companies say the extra money is to pay for service improvements.
The transport department regulates some fares, including season tickets and saver tickets.

Regulated fares account for 40% of tickets sold, and have risen by up to 4.3% in some areas, although many such fares have not increased at all.

Meanwhile, the 60% of fares which are set by private operators increased by up to 7.3%, which is nearly three times the government's 2.7% target rate of inflation.

Unregulated fares include open tickets, when passengers buy their tickets on the day they want to travel.

Anthony Smith, of Passenger Focus, described the pricing system as a "jungle" that needed to be simplified.

"It has become too much for people to travel during peak longer distance and therefore people are being pushed off the railways. It is not fair," he said.

"Pushing people towards booking ahead in advance and being less flexible, it changes the nature of the railway."

The Tory privitisation of the rail network has unfortunately led to a ridiculously complicated and obscure ticketing system. The rail network is in many senses a monopoly (although not quite, because there are other transport options in many cases). As such, rail ticket prices should be regulated, but in a way which makes the network pay for itself (why should train customers have their journeys subsidised by the rest of the country?). But it should also be regulated so that the ticket arrangements are clear and simple. Labour has singularly failed to turn around the disaster created by the Tories. Instead, millions of pounds have been wasted on useless consultancies and lawyers.

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