Campaigners have begun two days of protests at rail stations to highlight new fare increases on commuter lines that cost as much per minute as ‘calling a premium rate number’.
Three groups campaigning for re-nationalisation of the railways – We own it, Action for Rail and Bring back British Rail – are organising demonstrations at over 100 stations in England and Wales on Tuesday (3 January) and Scotland (4 January) to mark fare rises of an average of 2.3%.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) said it has calculated the cost per minute for various annual season tickets, with the highest a commute from Stevenage to London Kings cross at 27 pence per minute. Most season tickets are regulated fares with the price rise set by government at 1.9% for 2017.
CfBT public transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said: ‘Wages remain stagnant and trains continue to be hopelessly overcrowded, so commuters are rightly angry at annual fare rises when they see little or no improvement in the service they receive.
‘Many commuters are now being charged at a similar level to a premium rate phone number for their season tickets and are left feeling equally as fleeced. It’s high time the Government introduced a fairer ticketing system that actively encouraged rail travel, not penalised people for choosing to take the train.’
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, admitted that ‘at the moment in some places people aren't getting the service they are paying for’.
He added: ‘However, increases to season tickets are set by government. Money from fares is helping to sustain investment in the longer, newer trains and more punctual journeys that passengers want.’
The Labour Party said its analysis of 200 routes showed that the average commuter now pays £2,788 for their season ticket, £594 more than in 2010.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘Passengers were always told that higher fares were necessary to fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed by years and essential maintenance works have been put on hold.
‘The truth is that our heavily fragmented railways mean that it takes years longer and costs much more than it should to deliver basic improvements. The railways need reforms that could be implemented if public ownership was extended to passenger services, but ministers are persisting with a failed model for purely ideological reasons.’