Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
An unwelcome annual event is the announcement of next year's increase in regulated fares. These cover about 45% of all tickets, including Anytime day tickets, seasons and off-peak fares. They are based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) for the previous July, even though this is no longer an official 'national statistic', and the figure this time is 2.8%. It acts as a cap on the average of a 'basket' of fares. Many fares are unregulated, including advance and first class tickets; these are left to the train companies to determine.
Along with other rail user groups and representatives, Harborough Rail Users have expressed dismay at the increase. We feel the more widely recognised Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which tends to be slightly lower, should be used instead. Better still, as the rail industry seeks to re-establish public trust after a turbulent couple of years, would be no increase at all!
Despite that, the increase in fares is intended to contribute towards investment in the railway and we are seeing a lot of that on our line, not least at our own station in Market Harborough.
Today, 2nd January, saw the annual fares increase and the largest increase for five years. The average nationally was reported as 3.4%; East Midlands Trains fares rose by an average of 3.3%. Though within a headline measure of inflation, rail fares continue to rise more steeply than average earnings. The rise is based on last July's Retail Price Index figure, 3.6%. However, the Consumer Price Index, which excludes some housing costs and amounted to 2.6% last July, is used by government for some other adjustments such as increases in pensions and benefits. Rail campaigners have long held the view that this would be a more equitable measure for fares. It seems doubly unjust that rail fares continue to rise in this way when fuel duty on petrol has again been frozen. The average increase masks some significant variations in individual fares, with some rising by higher amounts and others by less - or not at all.
It is true that much investment is going into the railways at present and it has to be paid for. However, with strong growth in rail usage over recent years, it would be good to see fares stabilised and increased revenue coming instead from the increased numbers of passengers.
There has been much coverage of the above-inflation potential rises in fares next January as a result of the national formula for regulated fares. Season tickets are already a major part of the cost of living for many commuters, especially when many people's incomes are not rising by similar amounts. We await the actual figures for Market Harborough's fares next year and hope they are reasonable and not at a level that could price people off the trains.