South West Trains have just announced another round of inflation-busting price increases for peak and off-peak travel.
Part of this increase comes as a result of the franchising system – and will disappear off into Central Government coffers. It’s effectively “tax farming” – or a stealth tax on off-peak and peak travellers in the South East. British rail passengers already pay more per mile than most of the rest of Europe. If the government was serious about rail, it would award the franchise to the company offering the lowest fares, not the highest premium.
The second issue is that the whole approach to pricing on the railways is broken. Locally, companies like South West Trains are a monopoly. They’re abusing that monopoly. And the rail regulator isn’t doing anything about it. No price increase has ever been refused by the regulator. We need the regulator to finally start acting in the interest of the rail traveller.
Whether that means replacing the current management or transferring responsibility for pricing regulation to the Office of Fair Trading, I don’t know. But something has to change.
My friend, Ed Davey, has just made a video on the topic, highlighting the problems they’ve been having in London.