27 April 2009

Further rail fare hikes

From the May timetable change, some operators have chosen to increase their rail fares less than 6 months after the annual January increments. It's widely known that train operating companies have been frustrated at the DfT's decision to cap the percentage rise regulated fares can increase by - currently inflation+1% It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the forthcoming price hikes affect advance purchase tickets, i.e. those classed as unregulated tickets.

It staggered me that Network Rail's chief executive Iain Coucher should be the one to warn that passengers risk being "priced off" the rail network as a result of these further fare increases. Mr Coucher believes that the cost of rail travel, if it's perceived as being too high, is an issue for the rail industry to deal with and has warned against further price rises.

Network Rail (NR) was sharply rebuked recently by Transport Minister Andrew Adonis for choosing to close both Anglo-Scottish main lines on two occasions during March (14/15 & 21/22). Coucher himself offered an apology. NR's own governance has been brought into question in recent months, being cited as not fit for purpose and Lord Adonis has also hinted that NR's directors should look again at the massive bonuses they award themselves.

Hence why, of all the people to be politely critical of making the railways seem less attractive, Iain "no way to Scotland but bus" Coucher is perhaps one of the worst-placed to do so! (GL)