Rail (UK)

Priced off the rail­way

- Travel · Transportation · Industries · United Kingdom · Cornwall · Ilkley

My wife and I, an ac­tive if el­derly cou­ple liv­ing on mod­est pen­sions, re­cently planned to travel by rail from York­shire to Corn­wall. Our trip was aborted due to the pan­demic.

But even us­ing our Se­nior Rail­cards and book­ing the cheap­est avail­able Ad­vance pur­chase tick­ets, the cost for the two of us would have been an eye-wa­ter­ing £250. It would have been far cheaper to hire a car.

Rail fares in the UK are now a huge dis­in­cen­tive to travel by train. Two decades ago, we were fre­quent rail trav­ellers for busi­ness and plea­sure all over the UK, but now do so only oc­ca­sion­ally.

Like the ma­jor­ity of the UK pop­u­la­tion, we have been priced off the rail­way. It has been a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy of re­cent gov­ern­ments to use pric­ing to choke off de­mand from over­crowded com­muter and in­ter-city trains, rather than in­crease ca­pac­ity.

But COVID-19 has changed every­thing. New pat­terns of home work­ing and changes in busi­ness travel will re­duce com­mut­ing dras­ti­cally for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Yet ur­ban and ru­ral traf­fic con­ges­tion and air pol­lu­tion will es­ca­late, as peo­ple are forced to drive rather than use un­af­ford­able trains.

Rather than wast­ing huge quan­ti­ties of public money fund­ing half-empty, over­priced trains, there is ur­gent need for a fun­da­men­tal re­think of rail fare strate­gies.

Our rail net­work should be ben­e­fit­ing both peo­ple and the UK econ­omy, by giv­ing op­tions for af­ford­able and more sus­tain­able travel op­por­tu­ni­ties for all - and co­in­ci­den­tally ac­tu­ally in­creas­ing ticket sale rev­enues by fill­ing oth­er­wise empty seats.

Colin Speak­man, Ilk­ley

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