1 March 2021 is the day that train fares go up in England, this year by 2.6%.
The increase is on regulated fares, which make up around 40 per cent of all rail fares and include season tickets on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys and Anytime tickets around major cities.
The government uses July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation to determine the increase in the price of these fares. This year, it has decided to increase fares by RPI +1%, which totals 2.6%. However, it delayed the increases until 1 March from 1 January.
Reaction to the increase has, predictably, been negative, especially as train operators want to encourage passengers back onto trains and not put them off with price increases.
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents all the train operators as well as Network Rail, said: “Ultimately, government decides how much it wants passengers to pay towards the cost of running the railway, but, to give passengers better value, we want to work with government to recast how people buy their fares.
“Rather than needing a crystal ball to predict your plans to the last minute before buying a ticket, we want the whole country to benefit from a new, more flexible system where people pay-as-they-go and automatically get the best deal at the end of the week or month, similar to London.
“This would deliver a system which incentivises more people back to the network and helps drive a truly national economic recovery.”
The pandemic has accelerated the move towards flexible working, with more commuters looking to split their time between home and the office. The average days each week a rail commuter expects to work from home post-lockdown has risen from 0.5 to 2.6 days, according to analysis by Jacobs, commissioned by RDG.
Following a detailed consultation on rail fares, which found that eight out of ten people wanted the system overhauled, the train operators have proposed radical proposals for a major reform of the fares system. The industry’s ‘Easier Fares for All’ proposals explained how updates to regulation would enable the transparent, simpler to understand fares system people want, backed up, for the first time, by an industry ‘best fare guarantee’.
Manuel Cortes, secretary general of the TSSA union, which has many members working on the railways, commented: “This really is a lamentable step from Conservative Ministers at Westminster and again demonstrates an utterly misguided approach when it comes to our railways.
“Increasing fares at a time when demand for rail travel has plummeted due to the pandemic will do nothing to encourage the much-needed return of passengers. Instead, hiking fares in this way seriously risks increasing congestion on our roads, and the pollution and carbon emissions that goes along with such a spike.
“This was the moment to be bold, but instead we see the Treasury’s grubby fingerprints all over this demand for more cash from the commuter. What should have happened was a strategy focussed on a fair fares regime, with new flexible ticketing arrangements encouraging train travel.
“I say now to Ministers – this is the time to build together towards the goal of a safe, clean and green post pandemic railway that works for people, not profit. The pandemic must be a moment to forever put the failure of privatisation behind us and see our railway network in public hands.”