Is my ticket value for money?
01 July 2011
No one could disagree with the aim of the Government-commissioned study into the costs of the rail industry – the recently published McNulty report. Reduce the costs of running and re-building the railway? Yes please. Try to stop the costs monster eating investment and fuelling eye watering fare rises? Yes please.
However, it’s how you do it that is important. Cutting peak services is unthinkable. Reducing visible staff will affect passenger feelings on personal security, information and disruption management. Introducing new peak prices to force some to use ‘cheaper’ tickets will cause resentment and accusation of a ‘rich man’s railway’. Forcing us all into booking ahead longer distance travel ignores how passengers currently use the railway and throws away one of the industry’s great advantages built up in recent years – fantastic frequencies in many places.
Something has to be done. Industry costs are spiralling, but this is not passengers fault. We are now facing inflation plus three per cent rises for the next three years. When you add in the generous flexibility that train companies are allowed to play with we are looking again at double digit fare rises, year after year, on some lines. The worst case scenario could see 40% fare rises by 2015! We are already paying some of the most expensive fares in Europe. We are doing our bit.
So, over to the industry and government. Organise the industry in a way that delivers value for money services. The real worry underlying the McNulty report is that it reads like a charter on to how to organise the industry to suit itself – the industry should organise around what passengers want. After all isn’t that the purpose of all this activity – to help us move around?