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Fares frozen (well, sort of)

6 January 2014

For more than 10 years, UK rail passengers have faced exorbitant fare increases, now paying the highest fares in Europe. The RPI inflation + 1 per cent fare formula – used from 2003 to 2013 – accelerated fares away from other prices, making rail a more expensive and less attractive method of transport for many.

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After three years of TSSA campaigning against fare increases, passengers have had a massive win. George Osborne has U-turned on his previous plan by announcing a “fares freeze” which will apply an inflation-only increase.

But like most government announcements the devil’s in the detail. Not only is inflation several times higher than average wage rises, but the ‘flex’ which can be applied by train operators, albeit now cut from 5 per cent to 2 per cent, coupled with the rise in unregulated fares, will mean that many fares will still be less affordable. We called for a freeze, but instead we got slush!

In related news, East Coast announced they would implement a true freeze on more than half their fares, creating a real terms price cut for many passengers. The publicly-owned company described the policy as ‘a straight forward commercial decision’ to ‘attract more people to our trains, and help to maximise revenue’.

The East Coast decision highlights the difference public ownership can make. Any operators could choose to freeze or even decrease unregulated fares but the trend has always been for revenue growth from existing passengers rather than through attracting more customers. East Coast’s policy is our opportunity to put the pressure back on the private operators and expose the privatised model for what it really is.

We need your stories. We know many TSSA members are lucky to obtain free or reduced travel, but family, friends and others are facing severe hardship because of fare increases. We want their stories for the campaign.

To submit a story go to www.tssa.org.uk/fares

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