Following the announcement of July’s Retail Prices Index as 1.6 per cent, Transport Focus is calling on the Government and train companies to work together to offer passengers better value for money deals to get them back on trains.
The Government uses the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) figure to set the following year’s regulated fare rises. RPI was 1.6 per cent in July 2020.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “People’s feelings about travel, and the way they use public transport, have changed. While the rail leisure travel may bounce back, our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.
“The Government must go above and beyond a fares freeze and get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style ‘bundles’, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board. To get Britain moving again in the coming months, tickets that fit the way we live and travel now are needed, not just season tickets designed for city gents in the last century.
“Like the Government’s restaurant deal, we need a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.”
Regulated fares account for around 45 per cent of ticket sales; the rest, including things like advance and peak long-distance tickets, can be increased at train companies’ discretion.
Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, says the increase regulated rail fares by 1.6% in January will be a “missed opportunity”.
He said: “The rail fare rise will do nothing to restore people’s faith in the railways. The Government must do more than just pay lip service to encouraging people to take public transport, it must now also provide the financial incentives to do so. The fare rise is a missed opportunity to do just that.”
The sustainable charity is also urging the Government to bring forward the introduction of flexible season tickets to help the millions of people who work part time and those who will be returning to workplaces for just part of the week in January.
Darren Shirley said: “Part-time commuters will feel the pinch of this rail fare rise even more acutely, unless flexible season tickets that provide an equivalent discount on full-time ones are available from January. The Government must recognise that the needs of commuters have changed and ensure that the railway meets those needs in an affordable way or else we risk the long-term economic and social costs of permanently diminishing the public transport system.”
Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Decisions about regulated rail fares, including season tickets, are taken by governments who rightly make the choice about the balance between how much farepayers and taxpayers contribute.
“We know that the best way to support economic recovery now and keep fares down in the future is to get more people travelling by train. This is why we are delivering our safer travel pledge, are working with government on flexible season tickets and want to work with government to update regulation so that we can build an easier to use, better value fares system which suits changes to how people travel.”