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Passenger backlash over soaring rail fares



Passenger backlash over soaring rail fares


Given the current economic uncertainty, rail prices rises will never be welcomed by either commuters or occasional passengers. However, the expected backlash can be limited if operators get smarter about their pricing. Rather than applying increases across all routes and at all times, operators should be more flexible by setting prices based on forecasted demand and on what their competitors are charging. This way they can decrease prices to encourage travel during quieter periods, while applying peak-time price increases to steer some of the excess demand to other services.

By anticipating demand on a daily basis and setting prices according to various demand signals, operators can ensure that the rises are applied in line with demand, reducing the impact on customers as we move into what could be a challenging year for the industry.
Peter Shearer
Vice-president of passenger transportation, JDA Software


• The government and the Association of Train Operating Companies claim to have restricted fare rises to RPI+1%. However, they do not take account of the back-door increases some train operators are imposing by simply changing the time restrictions on cheaper tickets.

Cross Country Trains (which is now owned by German state railways) will be restricting all its off-peak tickets in January so they will only be valid after 0930 on Mondays to Fridays. At present many are valid after 0500. For some of their longer journeys – for example between Cornwall and Scotland – this will mean almost a doubling of the fare.

Cross Country reckons it will be introducing more cheap "book-ahead" fares instead – which are a lottery as you can never be certain which trains these will be available on until you book, and woe betide you if you change your travel plans after booking. However, having searched its website for a journey to Scotland in January on the 0628 from Penzance – requiring a change at Birmingham on to a Virgin Trains service – I found no advance booking tickets were available, only the "Anytime" return fare of around £400, when the journey used to cost around £200.

Imagine the outcry from petrolheads if fuel prices doubled – but for our train operators this is apparently not a problem. I have written to Cross Country asking it for a reason for the fare increase, but so far have not received a reply.
Stuart Walker
Carbis Bay, Cornwall


• At a time of economic downturn, there can be no justification for the latest rail fare increases announced by the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc). The increases to be introduced on 2 January, which will see an average 5.9% rise in rail fares across the country, couldn't have come at a worse time.

The latest austerity measures are already seeing us being forced to tighten our belts further, restricting our spending habits, and these latest increases will do nothing to help those of us on the lowest incomes.

In a fairer society these increases in fares would be absorbed through reducing company profit margins, and cutting shareholders' dividends.

Irrespective of Atoc's claims that the fare increases will be used for "new trains, faster services, and better stations", it is doubtful that all rail passengers across Scotland will see such improvements.

Placing the burden of fare increases on all those who have no choice but to use the rail network is a cruel measure, being taken at a time of year when hard-working people's finances will be at their lowest.
Jill Ferguson

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