Has the government got a hidden agenda to get more people cycling working across its policies? That's a very charitable take on the news that there will be yet another rail fare increase hitting the UK's cash-strapped workforce.*
Coming in the same week that the Coalition announced a multi-million pound investment in cycling, it was revealed that rail fares will increase by an average of 4.1 per cent as of January 2014. Sustrans has blasted the rise (the eleventh consecutive increase), saying many people will struggle to access jobs and healthcare.
Sustrans’ Policy Adviser, Matt Hemsley, said: “This will be the 11th year running that commuters have been forced to endure an above-inflation increase in rail fares, preventing many people from accessing employment and essential services.
“Train travel is becoming unaffordable as ticket price rises outstrip wages at the same time as many more people are struggling with the costs of running a car.
“Yesterday’s investment in cycling must be coupled with a fully-funded plan that provides affordable and accessible public transport for everyone.
“Young people and part-time workers, in particular, risk being priced out of using the train to get to work, which will harm the economic recovery.”
Giving up on rail?
But maybe those increases are leading more commuters to give up on the UK's underperforming, expensive rail network and get on their bikes instead?
Figures published this week by the Cycle to Work Alliance (consisting of Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords) highlight a 22.5 per cent increase in take up in the second quarter of 2013, when compared to the same period in 2012. This follows a similarly large 19.3 per cent year-on-year increase for the first quarter of 2013.
Overall, the second quarter has seen the scheme encouraging over 29,000 new cyclists to commute to work by bike*, with over 44,000 new cyclists signing up to the scheme in the first half of this year.
With MPs set to debate the findings of the Get Britain Cycling report in Parliament on September 2nd, these latest figures highlight the desire and interest among the UK population to take up cycling and demonstrates that the cycle to work scheme remains a proven, cost effective and affordable way for individuals to do so - argues the Alliance.
Director of Cycle Solutions and Chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance Steve Edgell said: “These latest figures are hugely encouraging. With rail fares continuing to rise above inflation, they show that there is a popular, affordable alternative to train travel – commuting to work by bike.
"With more and more people signing up to the scheme, despite the cold start to the year, these figures demonstrate that the cycle to work scheme is hugely effective in increasing cycling take-up.
"With over 44,000 new cyclists signing up to the scheme this year, 2013 is looking like the year that cycling becomes ever more mainstream.”
*UK's rail network is taking record numbers of passengers at the moment (which perhaps is not suprising with the overall population increasing). Arguably, that might be down to those increasing fuel prices.