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A brief observation on train fares

Great are the rumblings from passengers and the political classes on the state of train fares in these parts, they being rather higher per mile than elsewhere in Europe. I make the odd short hop once or twice a week, off peak, so it is not much of a problem for me, although doubtless long distance commuters find the prices irksome.

While I take anything the government says cum grano salis, it is touting a figure of £500 million per year to reduce fares to the European average. For the sake of easy maths, let us say that roughly two thirds of the population are of income tax paying age, or about 40 million. Given that not all of working age are working, I have found a figure of 78.7% for the working population, which suggests 31.5 m tax payers, say 30 million to keep it simple. Put another way, that is about £17 per tax payer head, per year, which strains credulity far beyond breaking point.

Anyway, back at the point, rail travel is strongly demographically skewed to the better off, so any further subsidising of rail travel would inevitably involve redistribution of wealth from the less well off to the better off. Further, commuters are the best cost avoiders, not the general tax base, and I would suggest that commuters should not be subsidised for the travel arrangements that they have made. Even supposing that they were, a rough tallying up of entry / exit numbers at the London termini gives a figure of 400 million odd. per year Half that for passenger numbers, and the saving per year is of the region of £2.50 per year.......

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Blogger Obnoxio The Clown said... 12:34 pm

They really should just stop subsiding the train companies and deregulate them completely. The free-for-all would be ugly for about a year and then fares would go down, trains would be run better and everyone (especially the taxpayer) would be better off.  

Blogger Croydonian said... 12:43 pm

Sounds good to me.  

Blogger Old BE said... 12:43 pm

The fraction of the population who use trains on a regular basis is tiny, and the fraction of journeys made by train is tiny. Why should the national taxpayer be subsidising at all?

City transport is quite another thing altogether.  

Blogger Croydonian said... 12:49 pm

As I have noted before - somewhere or other - if transport is to be subsidised, the first place to look is at buses, as these are more likely to be used by the less well off.  

Blogger James Dowden said... 7:40 pm

I'm not convinced that the unproletarianness of rail is anything other than a south-east England phenomenon, based upon historical biases. If someone were, say, to propose a Cardiff Crossrail from the Heath to Cogan (to relieve the 2-track viaduct between Queen Street and Central stations), via Plasnewydd, Cathays, the Castle, Central Station, the Bay, and south Grangetown, the chief areas to benefit would be some of the most deprived areas in Britain, both in the valleys and in the city. Okay, such an improvement may make those areas cease to be deprived, but that may in itself be socially laudable.  

Blogger Croydonian said... 9:53 am

James - you make a reasonable point. Outside of London, rail communting is not easily done, bar Glasgow, Manchester, Brum and a few other big cities as a surburban network just is not there. I cannot pretend to any great knowledge of south Wales, although I have a working knowledge of Prembrokeshire and the North coast from family holidays decades ago.

However, even supposing a commuter network was built around some of the smaller conurbations, they would probably be residentials spokes to urban hubs, thus serving white collar workers rather than blue collar workers. After all, how many factories are served by railway stations?  

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