It's never nice to find out that a household bill has gone up, but for many rail commuters finding out just before Christmas that their season ticket will cost hundreds of pounds more next year is all the more galling. The average wage is certainly not going up, the rising cost of living is hitting many families hard and the increase in rail fares will do nothing to help.
Yesterday fares for 2012 went online, and it was not a pretty picture. Fares have risen above inflation again, and on average have increased by 5.9%. Looking forward to 2013 and 2014 the forecast is even bleaker, with no movement at all on the government's plans for 'inflation plus 3%' rises for most fares over the next two years. Imagining ticket prices around 24% higher than now is enough to make a commuter shudder, but this is what is expected by 2015. We are being taken further and further away from the value for money rail service that we desperately need.
Passenger outrage is bubbling up, on Twitter and chat rooms across the web. On 3 January, the first working day back after the New Year for most people, ticket offices, train carriages and social networking sites will no doubt be buzzing with the voices of irate passengers. A coalition of organisations, including Campaign for Better Transport, is launching an action to help passengers vent their concerns in a way that gets heard by the people who make the decisions. On the first day back we're launching a 'text, tweet or call' action to give the views of commuters a platform.
Everyone has a thing or two to say about fare hikes and poor service, and it's not surprising because we have the highest fares in Europe. Fares regulation was originally brought in to protect rail passengers. However, the way the government uses rail fare policy actually brings in revenue, effectively creating a tax on those people who do the right thing and use public transport. It would be a grave mistake for the government to forget the economic, social and environmental benefits the railway brings for the whole country, not just train passengers. If policies do end up pricing people off the trains and onto the roads, as government forecasts predict they will, even people who have never used a train before will suffer from increased congestion and pollution.
For more information about the #FareFail action go to www.farefail.org.uk