National Rail on track to empty our pockets

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Photo by Paul Hannah

As if the current economic climate wasn’t chilly enough, the new train fares revealed this week are sure to freeze any chance for students popping home to see the family in the coming term.

Britain already has the highest train fares in all of Europe and they are set to rise again in the New Year.  I know everything seems to be going nowhere but up, but these proposed increases not only outstrip inflation, and the miniscule wage rises, but in the case of some journeys the increase is set to be as much as 13%!

The average rise is 5.9% but even this means that a return journey from Lancaster Station to Manchester Piccadilly could cost as much as £17.68 if the average is anything to go by.  It could be more though, and as many journeys for students at Lancaster means a journey to Manchester Piccadilly first, before proceeding to home towns, it could cost us students a small fortune to get home.  No matter how priceless it is to see the family.

The Government’s stand on this however is that we should be grateful that Chancellor George Osborne halted rises last month which would have increased raises by another 2% meaning it would have made the average rise closer to 8%

But what exactly is all the money from the rising fares attributed too?  Well, train regulators say that train use has increased all over the country, with some areas, such as commuter towns like Ramsgate in Kent increasing by a third. This has led to overcrowding on trains, more delays and poor service at stations.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) have said that the money will go towards investing in new trains to accommodate this rise in users, faster services and better stations but said he understood the financial difficulties facing rail users and assured the public that the industry was looking to limit the fare rises “over the long term.”

Many though, are angered by the current Government’s decision to overturn Labour’s initiative on the cap on train fares, especially since these fares rises are set to continue by 1% each year in January 2013, and January 2014, claiming the increases put even more pressure on the dwindling pay packets.  Some seasonal tickets for commuters could cost over £4000 for the first time ever thanks to the new fare prices compared to Europe’s fares which are up to 24% lower than that of Britain’s.

It seems though, since the Office of Rail Regulation continues warning Network Rail of their failure to meet targets of punctuality, that rail officials seem to be going down the wrong track with this new tact.  Surely the public would have more faith in the increases if Network Rail could prove they could get their act together with the extortionate train fares even without the increase.

Thankfully students still have our saviour, the student rail card, but it appears we’ll pretty much be paying full price 2011 fares in the New Year as the discount will only pretty much cancel out the rises.   Looks like the benefits of being a student just keep dwindling.

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