The Planning Officers Society is grateful for the opportunity to respond to the Department for Transport's Rail Fares and Ticketing Review: Initial consultation.
We agree that the vision for a modern, customer-focused railway should include updating fares and ticketing to reflect advances in technology and the variety and flexibility of modern working patterns, and that the commitment to capacity expansion can be complimented by looking seriously at how fares could be used to spread demand more evenly. However, this consultation pays scant regard to the societal benefits of rail travel, such as reduced carbon emissions, congestion relief, and economic benefits, that accrue to the wider population.
We are delighted to see further confirmation of the Government's commitment to abolish above inflation rises in average regulated fares. However, there is no specific indication of when this will be achieved. Continuance of the RPI+ formula for rail fare increases twenty years after the start of privatisation demonstrates that the key financial aim of rail privatisation - improved efficiency leading to a reduced cost on the public purse - has yet to be met. We are concerned therefore that the outcome of this consultation will be to leave open the likelihood that regulated fares will continue to rise in real terms for many years and the possibility that fares for travel at certain times may rise significantly.