The media seemed to have been surprised by the public outcry in a tenth successive year of real (eg above inflation) rail-fare rises. They shouldn’t be. If ever there was a stealth tax , this is it.
Instead of the Government setting out a strategic plan which included investing in infrastructure, they have passed the buck to the train companies and Network Rail who have been given carte blanche to put up fares in terms of taking on the job of improving the nation’s rail network.
The result has been the odd cap doffed to improvements but by and large the same old train failures, over-crowding, poor staff attitude and gross inefficiency (let’s hope the Government finally acts on the Mcnulty report which only states what commuters see every day).
It is no good pointing to cheap advanced fares, you cannot live lives let alone run businesses to the railway timetables weeks in advance.
Nor is it any good pointing to rail being cheaper than travelling by road. The reason so many of us have to travel by rail is that we are not able to pay the costs of fuelling and insuring our cars. The price of fuel is mostly down to Government taxes, the cost of insurance a result of successive policy failures that have failed to curb the monstrous claims industry.
Those of us who have embraced the green agenda and regard a mile in a car as another inch in the ozone hole, are doubly galled to see us paying an inverse carbon tax as we are forced to pay for years of underinvestment in rolling stock, electrification and basic maintenance of stations and common parts.
If ever there was an example of an area where we could properly borrow to improve a national service, national productivity and the wealth and happiness of nations, it is in rail infrastructure.
We were promised some time ago that we would start seeing some of the money sloshing around in UK pension and insurance companies finding its way into “infrastructure projects”. Where is this happening? If it is happening anywhere, it should be happening on our railway system.
Perhaps I am generalizing. There are areas of efficiency, of good customer service and of general timeliness. From personal experience Virgin have shown that it can be done. But step up the plate East Coast Trains and GWR, two services I have particular problems with.
The media should not be surprised that the public are fed up. They are fed up with poor performing franchises but they are also fed up with a Government that has been weak and ineffectual in the management of the franchises and have passed the buck for improving infrastructure to all and sundry ;- to no good effect!
- ‘Kick in teeth’ for commuters as cost of rail season ticket rises to as much as £5,000 (standard.co.uk)
- ‘Rail an extravagance for many’ after 50% fare rises in 10 years (guardian.co.uk)
- Rail travellers hit by fare rises (bbc.co.uk)
- Anger over soaring rail prices (guardian.co.uk)
- Rail fare structure ‘not ideal’, admits transport minister (guardian.co.uk)
- Why do our rail fares keep rising? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Blame government for rail fare rises, says First Great Western (telegraph.co.uk)
- New rail fares ‘not that expensive’, says Norman Baker – Telegraph.co.uk (telegraph.co.uk)
- Rail fares: ‘Tenth above-inflation increase in row but no improvement in service’ (standard.co.uk)
- Rail fare hikes come into effect (standard.co.uk)