Whatever way you are travelling as a rail passenger, fares only go in one direction - up. On Wednesday we got news of yet another fare rise. Some commuters will pay more than £100 extra for season tickets - already among the highest in Europe.
But today there are signs of a change in direction. Speaking to the new Transport Secretary Grant Shapps it’s clear to me a transformation is coming.
- He believes the franchise system that shaped rail for 25 years since privatisation is broken and today he introduced a new model of performance contract for West Coast services in future. This new system must connect customer satisfaction with earnings.
- He pledges to disengage fare rises from RPI inflation (largely seen as an outdated measure). But there’s a catch. He says he can only do it “if unions agree”. Let’s be frank, rail unions rarely agree with rail ministers. We need industry figures to stop blaming each other for this and to bring new urgency to sorting it out.
- He says money from higher fares will be invested in improvements. They say that every year. Passengers are expected to pay more now for advances in the future - and some never arrive. Government aims to smooth over the ticket price increases by saying wages are rising too. But wages haven’t soared 46% since 2009 as fares have.