So the government has finally launched its rail fares review, which has the potential to be the biggest shake-up of our fares system for decades. With rail fares a hot topic across the country affecting the pockets of hundreds of thousands of people, the chance to have a say on fares will be irresistible for many. To help people respond easily we've produced a simplified form on our website which people can use to take part in the review and send their views to the Government. We're also encouraging people on twitter to tweet their views using #farefail.
They are several things up for discussion in the review. For starters, the government has indicated it might be willing to let train companies charge more for the busiest trains, for instance those used by commuters to arrive at work at 9am or inter-city trains on Friday evenings, creating so-called 'super-peak' tickets. This could be one way of managing demand at the busiest times, but will also penalise people who have no option but to travel during peak hours. Most commuters will tell you how unpleasant peak-time commuter trains are and would willingly vary their commute if they could, unfortunately not everyone has the option of flexible working.
A poll we conducted showed this proposal is deeply unpopular with passengers with 63 per cent believing that raising fares on the busiest trains at a higher rate than other services is unfair for all passengers, even if it meant lower fares on some less busy services.
It's no secret that rail fares have become hugely expensive having soared by up to 200% since 1995. With fare rises of inflation plus 3 per cent for the next two years, fares will already be 24% higher in 2015 than they were in 2011. Introducing 'super-peak' tickets would mean some passengers seeing even steeper increases. With this in mind the Government's commitment to ending inflation-busting fare increases "at the earliest opportunity" will sound a little hollow to any passengers.
The government has also indicated it wants to give us more ways to buy tickets, but less of those ways will be via a human being with proposals to reduce staffing levels and close ticket offices. We know passengers value real people in stations and on trains, and we recognise not everyone can negotiate the complex ticketing system without human help and we hope the government will too. We are pleased to see proposals to introduce smartcards, like London's Oyster system which has helped increase passenger numbers on London's rail network since its introduction. Smartcards could also pave the way for part-time season tickets, something we've campaigned for, which would surely be popular with the 7.8m people who already work part-time.
With lots of options open for discussion, we need to make sure that passengers' views aren't lost in a discussion about privatisation or regional structures, which the unions and industry may want to focus on. So make sure you take part in the review and have your voice heard.