AFTER another year in which rail services across not just our region, but the country as a whole, have been abject, it is a kick in the teeth to see fare rises come into force today.

Among the disruption suffered by passengers in 2019, was strike action on the South Western Railway throughout December, while Northern and TransPennine Express services had problems for much of the year.

The annual increase in rail fares is always controversial. Ticket prices go up every year because it has been the policy of successive Governments to switch the burden of funding the railways from taxpayers to passengers. Increases in about 45 per cent of fares are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and the rest are decided by train companies.

Figures from the Office of Rail and Road show that between January 1995 – around the time the network was privatised – and January 2019, average fares increased in real terms by 21 per cent. Passengers can save money by getting a railcard, travelling off-peak and booking in advance, but these options are not available for many journeys, particularly those made by commuters. And busy lifestyles mean planning trips months in advance is not always practical.

There is no magic wand to wave which will solve this problem, but it would be a step in the right direction for rail companies, and government to recognise that ever-increasing rail fares will do nothing to help get people out of their cars, and meet carbon reduction targets.