Along the right lines?

09 March 2012

The Government’s Command Paper on rail published yesterday outlines the Government’s commitment to the long-term funding of the railways, promises to end inflation-busting fare increases and to making it easier for passengers to get the right information and tickets. Passenger Focus, backed up with extensive passenger research, has been arguing for years that these changes are needed, so these commitments are welcomed.

What does the passenger standing on Clapham Junction think about all this? Rail passengers will welcome the Government’s desire to stop the seemingly endless rounds of above inflation fare rises, as well as acknowledging that radical reform of the fares and ticketing system is needed. No-one could disagree with the need for a more efficient and cost-effective railway, but what matters to passengers is how all this reform actually pans out in practice. How will it affect the way we travel?

Changes to the way the railway is run and fares system need to pass two tests: will passengers find the changes both affordable and acceptable? How reform is implemented is crucial if confidence in the railways and the ticketing system is to be shored up and value for money ratings pushed up. How do you avoid pricing passengers off while simultaneously making it worthwhile for passengers to travel at different times? Significant peak price hikes might force many into an unpleasant choice: pay up or change job, if you can. Getting the answers to these questions right is crucial if the Government is to reap the benefits of the substantial investment still being made in the railway.

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