A Strong Case for Discounted Fares

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 20, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Strong Case for Discounted Fares


TRAIN travellers have long been used to paying high prices for an unreliable rail service on commuter routes. However, they have at least enjoyed the ability to use the railways at quiet times at little cost. The price of "saver" fares for longer, off-peak journeys has risen only by a capped amount since 1995. Now, train companies are seeking to persuade the ministers that savers should be abolished, and off-peak fares raised.

This is the wrong way to go for the rail system. At privatisation, the then Conservative government believed the public deserved to keep the right to travel at limited cost outside busy times. After all, the taxpayer was continuing to subsidise the railways heavily. Since then, roads have become more congested than ever, and awareness of the environmental advantages of rail over car travel has increased. The case for concessionary fares for off-peak travel is as strong as ever. It is false for train operators to say there is no economic justification for them. A little revenue is better than none at all, which is what rail companies will get if the occasional traveller switches to car, long-distance coach, or even the increasingly competitive airlines. Rail companies argue that there are some tickets which are even cheaper than savers if booked the day before.

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