Passenger Voice January 2016: Anthony Smith’s editorial

21 December 2015

The annual festive ritual of the rail fare rises. Not as painful as in previous years but hard-pressed commuters returning to work after Christmas still won’t enjoy finding out how much it will cost them. So annual season ticket-holders, remember – buy this month if you can to get it at this year’s price!

After years of above-inflation fare rises this Government has listened and kept ‘regulated’ fare (many season tickets and off-peak return fares) increases to the rate of inflation – so one per cent this year. The shift in funding from taxpayer to passenger has been temporarily halted – now passengers pay almost two thirds of the day-to-day running costs of the railway, whereas ten years ago taxpayers bore that burden. We argued long and hard that passengers had now taken on more than their fair share so this is welcome news.

We tend to look at value for money ratings from passengers. We know from previous research that value for money scores of the railway are relatively low among commuters in London and the South East in particular. The price of the ticket is only part of this story. A free pass is low value for money if your train is cancelled!

Passengers also judge value for money on the basic delivery of the service – on time, few cancellations, frequent and some chance of getting a seat. Hopefully 2016 will be the year when passengers finally see trains become more reliable, disruption handled better and engineering and investment programmes done more sensitively. Those will be some of the main themes we will be working at on behalf of passengers.

Value for money must also be at the heart of the railway’s franchises. The announcement of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises being awarded will be welcome news for passengers, with greater flexibility of ticketing with smart ticketing programmes promised.

This will also be a key concern for passengers making journeys on bus this year. The Buses Bill and the option of bus franchising comes with the promise of a better deal for passengers. Passengers tell us that the most important thing for them is getting a seat on a value for money bus service that turns up on time. Whatever the final outcome it is important that the needs of passengers are at the heart of the decision.

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