BBC piece - "Exorbitant' rail fares attacked"
- From the BBC today:
Exorbitant' rail fares attacked
Public money totalling £87m a week is spent on the rail network.
Passengers are being driven off the railways thanks to the
"exorbitant" fares charged by train operators. The cross-party
Commons transport committee said passengers were "held to ransom" by
companies which tried to "see how much we can get away with". They
criticised government complacency for failing to ensure value for
money. The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said the
report was "over the top" and cutting fares would mean a "huge
increase in subsidy". A total of £87m a week of public funds are
poured into the rail network.
Responding to the committee's report, Rail Minister Derek Twigg said
there were more than a billion passenger journeys last year - "the
most for more than 40 years which demonstrates that the railways are
an attractive choice for many people". He added: "We want to price
people on to the railways by making sure attractive prices are
available. "There are some excellent value fares, but it is true that
the system can be complicated for passengers and this report
highlights important issues." Meanwhile the Conservatives said the
government was trying to "price people off the railways" and the Lib
Dems said the UK had the highest rail prices in Europe.
In its report, the committee said the privatised rail industry had
failed over a decade to "get fares and ticketing right". "Neither
passengers nor taxpayers are getting value for their money," it
added. "The situation is deeply unacceptable." And it said ministers
must bring in effective regulation if they were to achieve a
significant shift from road to rail - key to cutting greenhouse gas
emissions. MPs were particularly critical of steep rises in the cost
of open tickets bought on the day of travel which, it said, were now
"absurdly high". "The 'see how much we can get away with' attitude of
operators has put the thumbscrews on those passengers who have no
option but to travel on peak-hour trains using fully flexible open
fares," the report said.
The "deeply fragmented and highly complex" array of tickets offered
by companies were an "insult" to passengers, it added. "It is
unacceptable that in order to purchase a rail ticket passengers are
faced with up to a dozen different products, most of which have
subtly different conditions and restrictions," it said. And it said
companies appeared to exploit the Christmas holiday rush to maximise
Customer group Passenger Focus said that, while passenger
satisfaction was "on the up", rail users did not think they were
getting good value-for-money. "It can be difficult to get a good
value ticket so some passengers feel like it's a lottery," chief
executive Anthony Smith said. "The system is too complicated so train
companies will have to work really hard to simplify the way they sell
tickets." Atoc director general George Muir said: "This report calls
for cutting rail fares but without having the courage to admit the
huge increase in subsidy this would mean. "As for fares complexity
and the other things the report complains about, we acknowledge that
there are issues to address but this report is completely over the top."
Montreal QC Canada
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I am encountering British Rail prices for the first time as I plan a
trip to England for late this summer. I'm spending the first part with
a group attending the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford and will then
take off on my own to explore a country I haven't visited since I was
in high school.
Accustomed as I am to Japanese trains, I find that the British system
covers the country less well and is remarkably expensive. I feel very
lucky, as an overseas visitor, to be eligible for a BritRail pass, but
it is more expensive than the JR Pass for comparable periods of time.
Even airport transportation is pricier. The walk-up fare for the
Heathrow Express, a 15-minute train ride into London Paddington, is
14.50 pounds, or US$27.26 at the current rate of exchange. Buying a
ticket in advance saves you a whole pound. By comparison, the most
expensive way to get to central Tokyo from Narita Airport, the Narita
Express, a good 70 minutes and 40 miles, is 3,000 yen, or ...US$27.27
at the current rate of exchange. If I'm willing to go to a less
convenient part of Tokyo, I can ride the Keisei Skyliner for 1,920 yen,
The website for the Heathrow Express brags about its quietness and
luxury, but the two alternatives for traveling into Tokyo are both
clean, spacious, and fast.
Sure, I could take the Tube into London, but I'm leaving that afternoon
from Paddington to take a train to Hereford to meet up with the rest of
the group, and in my undoubtedly jet-lagged state, it will be all I can
manage to figure out one train station.
It has always amused me to hear people who never hesitate to go to
Europe saying that Japan would be too expensive to visit.
> I am encountering British Rail prices for the first time as I plan aHi, make sure you check out www.seat61.com
> trip to England for late this summer. I'm spending the first part with
> a group attending the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford and will then
> take off on my own to explore a country I haven't visited since I was
> in high school.
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