|Train fares v the green approach
||The most recent train fare increases have spurred me into writing this. I live in Andover, work in London and as a consequence,have no choice but to travel by train.
The crowded morning trains bear testimony to the fact that this is a very profitable route. Unfortunately most of the people using the service do not have an alternative means of transport and are forced into paying the increased fares. In essence, we are a "captive market".
Towards the end of 2006, if the media are to be believed, I read of how profitable the entire franchise of South West Trains was, and the handsome bonuses paid to both directors and shareholders as a result.
We are now being told that this latest fare increase is "necessary" in order to improve the "service". Maybe so. However, I am unaware of exactly how the service will be improved. No mention has been made of (a) an increase in the number of trains stopping at Andover or (b)an increase in the number of carriages to ease the inevitable overcrowding or (c) an attempt to clean up the trains.
It appears that the entire rail fare issue is actively conspiring against the Government's professed desire for individuals to become more "environmentally aware". If train travel becomes prohibitively expensive, then it is quite natural to expect an individual (provided there is a choice) to elect to travel by road.
There are two rather obvious questions arising from this.
The first is how can the latest increase be justified when the train operator is considered to be very profitable (they have recently been awarded another franchise in addition to the current one being renewed)?
The second question is - in what way will fare increases motivate individuals to opt for trains as their preferred mode of transportation?
I would be grateful if you could put the questions to the appropriate people.
|Date Issue Raised:
||04 Jan 2007
||Many thanks for the email, which I read with interest. Like you I travel from Andover Station to Waterloo and back, and am all too aware of the pressure on seats on the early morning trains. As you say, we are a “captive market”
From 1995 to 1997, I was Secretary of State for Transport. When the railways were privatised, was determined that commuters should have adequate protection and their fares were “capped” at RPI minus 1% for five years. This meant that they went down in real terms, giving the incentives you rightly refer to to choose to travel by train. At the same time, petrol duty was going up by RPI plus 5%. I saw this as the basis of a sustainable and environmentally responsible transport policy. Moe services were put on – the off-peak service to Andover increased from one an hour to two an hour, and there was substantial investment in new rolling stock
I am afraid that this Government have abandoned the “cap”, and replaced it with one that allows a real terms increase – which you have just experienced. I have criticised the Government for this in the House of Commons as it makes no sense in environmental terms
You say that the South West Trains is a profitable franchise; this remains to be seen. There has been some comment in the Press that the recent Stagecoach bid was way ahead of everyone else’s and that they may have over-reached themselves. They need the fare increase to pay the Government the large premium they bid to win the franchise.
I will fight hard for better services for my constituents – greater capacity in the peak-hours, better parking facilities and improved reliability. There has been too much disruption on Mondays as a result of over-running engineering works.
Best wishes for 2007, George Young