By Joe Rukin
Yesterday’s announcement of rail fare increases ‘to pay for infrastructure upgrades’ is something rail passengers will have to get used to. The announcement could see increases of up to 13% on some routes each year for the next three years, and after that there’s HS2 to pay for. Or is that now? To top it all off, rail fares maybe spiralling in the same way as university tuition fees, as there are EU proposals to remove rail subsidies altogether.
For now, The Government have chosen a rise in fares of 3% above inflation which is currently at 5%. This is an average of 8%, however with the flexibility allowing train operators to charge 5% on the busiest (or worst) trains, commuters could see some fares rise by up to 13%.
In her statement, Transport Minister Theresa Villiers seemed to have missed the fact she was putting fares up about four times the rate wages are increasing; “The scale of the deficit means that the government has had to take some very difficult decisions on future rail fares, but the long-term solution is to get the cost of running the railways down. That way we can get a better deal for passengers and taxpayers. We are determined to do this and if we succeed, we hope to see the end of above-inflation rises in regulated fares.”
Anyone doubting a similar hike to pay for HS2 simply has to read the words of Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond;
“We are now embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment for 100 years, delivering more than 2,700 new rail carriages, a £900m programme to electrify more lines and the vital Crossrail and Thameslink projects in London. Due to the scale of the deficit, these investments would simply have not been possible without the difficult decision we have made to increase rail fares. I know this decision has not been popular, but I hope passengers will appreciate the improvements it allows us to make.”
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said; “These fare rises squeezing commuters are the direct consequence of the Tory-led government’s decision to cut too far and too fast, and travellers are having to pay more to plug the gap in the transport budget.”
There is a white elephant in the room however. It isn’t a cut which is at the heart of this. Far worse, it is the one project Hammond left off the list, the one that is a continuation of reckless and irresponsible spending. All of the projects ‘officially’ in the pipeline cost far less than HS2 will, but what seems to have gone unnoticed is that these commuters are paying for HS2 already. The estimate for HS2 spending 2010-2015 is currently running at £819m, from a starting point of £750m. That’s this Parliament, before we even start building it. This total is rapidly catching up with the cost for that £900m electrification programme which isn’t good enough. Yes, the Great Western needs electrifying, every single one of the top-ten most overcrowded trains in a survey two weeks ago was to or from Paddington. But why stop at Cardiff, and what about the Midland Mainline amongst others? What about the 19th Century signalling around Leeds which holds back the speed and length of crush-hour commuter trains, and of course single track pinch points which need stations like Kenilworth? These are the sort of projects that are being pushed to one side now, as we speak, not when we’re building HS2, but already, because it’s pushing a billion just in this Parliament. When we build it, well… £33bn over 15 years works out just over £2bn per year, doesn’t it? That’s of course before you add in all the things the £33bn guesstimate doesn’t cover. That money is going to have to come from somewhere.
Obviously it’s going to come from passengers, as that is what Mr Hammond has made clear, but if the passengers are to pay for rail infrastructure upgrades, then maybe we should let them prioritise? The problem there is that they might think that spending less and improving far more of the existing network; i.e. the trains they actually use -or more rightly ‘endure’- would be a priority.
This way of thinking however seems to be completely in line with what is currently coming out of the EU, as there are current proposals from the European Commission to abolish all government rail subsidies, creating of a ‘user pays’ system where passengers would be forced to incur the full cost of rail travel.
Mike Natrass MEP, who sits on the EU’s Transport & Tourism Committee said;
“More and more people would stop using our railways and the Government still wants to waste billions of pounds on High Speed Rail 2 (HS2). The EU also wants to introduce more tolls and pay-as-you-go travel on British roads. So there would be no escape. It would be a catch 22 situation – pay high rail fares or pay excessive toll charges.”
There are of course two sides to what can happen when travel subsidies are removed, fares can go up or as evident around the country with the buses, services just disappear altogether. There is a simple way to avoid cuts. You spend less.
Now following Oxford the 3 rivers district council hertfordshire have joined the 51m group against HS2 .The people are at last taking off the wool that has been pulled over their eyes.
morris whilst the train may be full at peak times someone who has written on the petition states that_ When the fast train from moor st goes ahead we wont need Hs2 .I travel to Bham and during the datime they are very empty so where will all the passengers come from?
the HS2 is so resticted with so few stops you just cant justify the expeniture for it.It barely makes economic sense if it were to run at full capacity both ways every 4 mins for 18 hours a day.
Completely agree with the off peak trains being quiet. We should be looking at how people work to try and reduce numbers at peak times, I travel (by choice) early so arriving in the office before eight and the trains are quiet I also try to travel home out of peak by delaying my journey or leaving early if work permits. I realise flexability isn’t always possible but I believe there is a lot of scope for working differently. Lets think a bit more I hate to use the phrase ‘out of the box’ and not waste biliions on a vanity project.
If you use Chiltern Railways to travel from Birmingham to London you will see why HS2 is not needed! They provide a reliable, efficient service and having commuted to London from Haddenham and Thame, I can say the trains coming from Birmingham were hardly ever full to capacity. Another myth used by the pro HS2 lobby says it will help bridge the so called North/South divide. The reality is, as shown by your use, is that the ony benefit, if there is one, will be London.
Of course these increases will not pay for HS2, but they will pave the way to making the HS2 fares seem acceptable if the line finally opens
Could some one please explain why as tax payers we have to contribute to rail travellers fares. If you commute by car or bus or even air you pay the full fare. Local authority contribution to buses has now all but stopped, car users pay very heavy taxes as well as air passengers. Rail users commute to London (and other major conurbations) in order to earn the higher salaries on offer, they choose to live some distance away in order to save on housing costs and then pay a subsidised non-commercial rail fare – the rest of us pay the rest. Many millions of commuters who do not use rail, subsidise those that do. This is not right and in these financially tight times it is also not fair.
HS2s own figures plan 70% leisure users. Why on earth should I and every other tax payer fund a persons purely voluntary rail trip?
Put rail fares on a commercial basis and they would be nearly double – that shows how inefficient rail is.
Tell your MP to stop wasting your money!
I thought we subsidised rail travel because it is greener than car or air travel but,even if that is an accepatable use of our money,HS2 is not green and certainly should not be subsidised by taxpayers
Does anyone know what the annual subsidy is expected to be please?
May I ask, do you really think that the price increase today is really going to pay for HS2. Then you are mistaken, if you look in to the price increase, yes its 8% and a possible 5% by the train companies, but the 5% is only on a limited number of fairs, for example Wales routes are only going up by 6% in total. The price increase is for TODAY`s rail projects not for HS2, again where does it say it is? Are you just saying that for headlines.
The prices increase is 3% above the inflation therefore if inflation going down or up next year, we could pay more or even less than the 8% increase. The prices increase is to reduce the level of subsidies which has also been lowered from 8bin to 6Bin. HS2 is needed to improve the rail network, please watch the interview on BBC morning news stating my case. Where it is stated that ALL monies coming from the price increase is to fund existing projects.
Love the way you completely ignore the fact £819 million is budget to be spent on HS2 by 2015, before a single sod has been turned.
Indeed Joe…..money is being spent on HS2 before any actual building takes place, which is the same for ANY construction project.These are long term investments, and you dont just suddenly turn up on site one day and start digging. In the case of HS2, there is already money being spent on the exceptional hardship scheme and rightly so……
That would be borrowed money for a vanity scheme that makes no sense.
HS2 is not needed to improve the network as the article Joe has posted articulates very clearly. Our existing infrastructure needs some serious attention to bring it to a satisfactory standard, this is a necessity not a luxury which HS2 clearly is. Morris do you travel each day by train? Do you experience the problems thousands of people do every day?
hsno – pleeeeeeaase don’t start him off on one of his stirrings-up! His blogs turn up everywhere something is written against hs2. He’s quite exhausting in his ability to say the same old stuff over, and over … and over …
Yes I do travel each day – (Birmingham to London) and I know how much the new line is required. If you travel too you will know this.
Morris, I think you’ve now explained why you support this railway as it will shortern your journey whilst blighting many peoples lives, slowing down other peoples train journeys and leaving all the other overcrowded underfunded routes just as they are throughout the country.
Morris works for transport for london ( i think) and cant separate his own self-interest from the overall balance of the argument.
My company has offices in Machester, leeds, York, swindon and about 15 other town in the Uk, so I use the train to get to most. I know how bad the network is and how much HS2 is need thankyou. No I do not work for transport for London. Do people on here know a balance of the argument, you do not show it
Morris, if what you are saying is true that is even worse ! If the current fares hikes are just to reduce the taxpayers share of the cost of the railways now and not to pay for big projects like Crossrail and maybe HS2 , then the poor rail travelling public can expect a lot worse in the future.
This country is in the economic mire right now and it is going to go on for many years. The reasons are obvious …………. the global economic crisis made far worse by our fundamental balance of payments problem ( not helped by importing expensive high speed trains and technology ) .
Most rail travellers would far rather have a decent, value for money railway system than something that shaves a relatively unimportant few minutes off their journeys times using the most expensive option possible ( which is what HS2 is ).
lelli0 – I don’t think you can talk all that people here say is that has hs2 is not required for their own personal reasons. Do you fall into this body of people too?. Even the head of your group agrees there is no alternative to building HS2.
MartinH – do you remember the 70 and 80 with no rail investment, remember how bad the network was, or are you a preson that remember the past through rose colored glass. Prices rise TODAY is to pay for TODAY`s investment, NOT paying for HS2. What would you have riser taxes to pay for investment or prices increase for the people that use the railway to pay for the investment.
Oh dear Morris, you do cheer me up! … “I don’t think you can talk all that people here say is that has hs2 is not required for their own personal reasons”. Talk about a sweeping statement. Have you not noticed all the countless postings re business case, financial case, myth busting etc? You’re the one doing the labelling.
the reason that “people here say is that has hs2 is not required ..” is no doubt due to the name of the web site. The clue is most definitely in the name. The site is predominantly for those OPPOSING hs2. You, with your differing viewpoint fall into the category of “guest”. We are a polite lot here, tolerating with humour (generally) those who would wish to rename the site Start hs2. But it already exists, so please do share your wisdom on that site too, where you will be speaking to the few who are converted.