Reading: Commuters Hit By Rail Fare Price Hike

Annual season ticket from Reading to London now costs over £4,000.

Rail passengers from Reading to London are spending more than a fifth of their wages on commuting, according to a report. 

Campaign for Better Transport says its because fares have gone up by a quarter over the last five years, while salaries have risen by only 9%.

The report claims that between 2008 and 2013 the cost of a weekly season ticket from Reading in Berkshire to London (including a Travelcard which allows for bus and Tube travel in London) had increased by 25% while average take-home pay has risen by just 9%.

It said this was based on average London earnings in 2013 of £34,895, resulting in take-home pay of £26,539.

The report said this meant someone on average London salary and commuting from Reading would now be paying 22% of their take-home pay in transport.

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said the fare rise was "a continuation of David Cameron's cost-of-living crisis'' , while Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said 2014 was "all set to be another year of racketeering and greed on Britain's privatised railways''.

Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans added: "Commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren't increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation.''

Consumer group Which? also said the fare increases "will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze'' , while campaign group Railfuture said: "This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe.''

But MP for Reading, Rob Wilson, argues the latest fare increase is the lowest in a decade and that things should begin to improve for commuters in the near future:

"One way or the other, somebody has to pay for the huge investment that's going into the railways. Now what this government has decided to do is make sure that fares now no longer go up higher than inflation.

"It looks like this year for the first time in a decade, according to the Office for National Statistics, we will have wages going along at the same rate as inflation, which should mean people are at least turning a corner and beginning to feel a bit better off."

Figures obtained by the Guardian show the increase for rail passengers in our area over the last two years:

Reading - London Terminals  (First Great Western)

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2012: £3,800

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2013: £3,960

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2014: £4088

Percentage increase from 2012 to 2013: 4.2% (£160)

Percentage increase from 2013 to 2014: 3.23% (£128)

 

Oxford - London Terminals (First Great Western)

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2012: £4,348

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2013: £4,532

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2014: £4,672

Percentage increase from 2012 to 2013: 4.2% (£184)

Percentage increase from 2013 to 2014: 3.09% (£140)

 

Newbury - Reading (First Great Western)

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2012: £1,500

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2013: £1,564

Cost of an annual season ticket in January 2014: £1,612

Percentage increase from 2012 to 2013: 4.3% (£64)

Percentage increase from 2013 to 2014: 3.07% (£48)

 

Meanwhile, it's claimed the government may pay train operators to convert first class carriages into standard seats for all passengers.

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond responded to questions at Kings Cross this morning, but would not confirm the claim:

"There are some new ideas we are looking at. This is one of them. Is it going to happen? It may. It may not.''

It was also put to him that some people's perception of the railways was one of poor value for money and constant delays.

He replied: "One of my jobs is to get that perception changed. It's no good just fining Network Rail for poor performance and that money going back to the Treasury. We want the company to improve.''

Michael Roberts, director general of rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group, added:

"We strongly support the Government's decision to limit the average increase in season ticket prices this year.

"This, combined with the determination of train companies to continue attracting passengers, means the average increase across all fares is 2.8%, the lowest in four years. To help the Government hold down fares in future, the rail industry is working hard to get more for every pound it spends.

"This year and in coming years, passengers across the country will continue to benefit from billions of pounds spent on improving services. As well as introducing more carriages, work will proceed on major projects like the new Birmingham New Street station and thousands of smaller, less-visible schemes to improve the railway.''

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