And the problem is?

Train fares cost more under the privatised rail system than they did under British Rail, it has emerged.

The finding undermines the key justification for the Government selling off the railways 12 years ago. John Major, who was then Prime Minister, promised that privatisation would mean lower fares.

However, a study has found that, taking inflation into account, from next month the average price of regulated fares – which include season tickets and saver fares – will be 0.6 per cent higher than in 1997. On some routes the rise will have been as high as six per cent.

Anyone care to tell me what the rise in passenger numbers has been?

I seem to recall that it\’s something like 50%.

So we\’ve a system which has seen a 50% rise in use and fares have risen 0.6%?

And this is a problem? I\’d say it was rather a success actually, put in only those terms.

If there\’s been a huge rise in demand for something, something of which there is a limited supply, you\’d expect price rises to be rather more than that, wouldn\’t you?

12 thoughts on “And the problem is?”

  1. I’m sorry, 0.6% rise in train fares? My turgid purple cock it’s been 0.6% — I know inflation is higher than the government admits, but since 2001 I’ve seen my train fares to London rise from £15 to £35.

  2. Obo,

    It’s probably because you’re travelling to London. Unregulated fares rose on First Great Western in late 2007 by an average of 6.1%, but Swindon to London went up by 9.8%. Therefore, other routes were lower.

    Which makes sense, really as there’s an undersupply on Swindon to London, while there’s always plenty of seats from Swindon to Bath.

  3. Is there not also the converse case, Tim, that a larger customer base allows greater economies of scale (and other increases in efficiency), such that prices should fall?

    Next, given the ever-increasing application of automation technology (eg ticket machines, Internet bookings, automated ticket barriers), improved train density through better signalling and safety systems, there should be further cost reductions over time.

    It seems to me that the supply/price effect that you quote is clearly applicable to short-term fluctuations. However, in the longer term, the above sorts of effect do come into play, and are a significant counter-effect.

    Finally, and most tellingly for railways (and other forms of transport too), there is not a free market, but a mixed one in which government control is more significant that just about any other factor: supply of track (roads, runways and air corridors too) is by government or its licenced monopoly suppliers; also, or because of this, government regulates prices (or controls a large proportion of them through such things as petrol tax).

    Best regards

  4. London has seen higher rises I’m sure, but that’s one of the costs of living in London as far as I’m concerned.

    Frankly, the supply is still too low for the demand, prices should probably be higher.

    I doubt the report takes into account subsidy from the state however, although that is still a massive amount.

  5. How could rail companies decrease fares and increase passenger numbers?

    Which would have the greater effect – increasing the ratio of passengers per employee or trains per hour.

    If its the former you’d need to do something about the unions, if its the latter then you need bigger doors.

  6. So then 0.6% in total over 10 years – not the most significant of numbers.

    What the Telegraph and others fail to pick up on is that BR had a policy of increasing fares by more than inflation – set by government, as per today.

  7. Bigger doors aren’t the issue – signalling infrastructure is. Most London commuter routes are running at signalling capacity, and you’d need to fit automated moving block signalling to increase it (which is happening on Thameslink and Crossrail, as it’s the only way of achieving the throughput those projects need). However, signalling upgrades are Very Very Expensive so I’m not sure they’d help on the fares down side of the equation…

  8. My friend lived in Cresson, PA–the divide between the watershed to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. His father was the most senior engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

    By the time the train made it from Altoona and the Horseshoe Curve and was pulling for the summit, he could duck through a cut in his hedge and swing aboard the slow-moving train. Forty-five minutes (and a full day’s very handsome pay) later, he’d pull into Pittsburgh. An hour’s wait–and time to do it again in the other direction, for another day’s pay. It’s called “featherbedding,” and, though my example may be extreme, it has a long and supposedly honored place in railroading history, at least here in the U.S.

  9. I’m a great fan of the railways, and I think you can still get very good value for money. But if you have to go anywhere via London, they take your eyes out.

    And it seem like rail is being stifled, like a fat woman in a thin corset.

    You should be able to order a ticket, online, from Edinburgh to Paris, get a seat guaranteed all the way through, and reserve a sitting in the dining car. But try to do it, and your carefully crafted plans will fall apart. It’s like trying to organise an intimate reunion for a bunch of folk who aren’t on speaking terms.

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