Priced off the railway
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