While we’re more used to hearing about motorists bemoaning fuel prices (which have been frozen at a cost of £21billion), spare a thought for the nation’s rail commuters, who are contending with another fare rise this new year.
Chancellor George Osborne has limited this year’s rail fare rise to inflation (3.1 per cent), meaning the rise is the smallest in four years, which is likely to be scant consolation to those forking out for the more expensive tickets.
While cycle commuters are naturally immune from fare rises, a significant and growing section of the cycle customer base will find their wallets and purses squeezed by the fare jump – cycle-rail journeys are currently at an all-time high of 39 million a year and rail companies are encouraging more integration with those making up part of their commute on two wheels.
Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is concerned that the latest train fare rises may encourage commuters to head back onto four wheels, stockpiling problems with congestion, obesity and pollution.
“The Chancellor’s move to bring an end to the inflation-busting fare rises we’ve seen over the last decade shows a recognition that rising transport costs are a barrier to economic recovery," said Sustrans’ policy director, Jason Torrance.
“But commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren’t increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation. If transport remains so prohibitively expensive, we will continue to restrict travel choices and opportunities to access essential services and employment.
“Businesses are rightly concerned about the increasing cost of congestion so the solution cannot be to force people back into cars and increase traffic jams in our cities.
“Instead of spending £21 billion on freezing fuel duty over the course of this parliament, the Chancellor should focus his efforts on making public transport more affordable and reliable – then we’ll have a transport system that can deliver economic recovery for Britain.”