Five questions answered on the annual rail fare rises

Risen three times faster than average incomes since 2008.

Annual rail fare rises take effect today. We answer five questions on the annual commuter price hike.

How much have rail fares increased by?

On average, fares have increased by 4.2 per cent.

Though it varies for different rail operators, overall ticket prices have increased by 3.9 per cent in England, Wales and Scotland.

How are rail fare price rises calculated?

They are calculated using the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation plus an additional percentage.

The additional percentage added to the RPI was reduced in October last year from 3 per cent to 1 per cent by the government making a total of about 4.2 per cent.

Any fares that go up more than the average must be balanced by others that rise by less than the average, or that fall.

How does the rise in rail fares compare with the rise of people’s income?

According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) average train fares have risen nearly three times faster than average incomes since 2008.

Which fares have been affected the most?

London commuters using the busses, tube, trams and DLR can expect to pay 4.2 per cent more today than yesterday.

One steep rise is an unregulated return between Birmingham and London which went up by 10 per cent, although this actually only adds £2.50 to the fare.

An off-peak day return between Bristol and St Austell in Cornwall is now £75.60 - a rise of 40 per cent - from £53.10.

Although, some tickets have only risen by as little as 2.3 per cent with one ticket from Shenfield, Essex, to London now £16 cheaper, after a 0.6 per cent drop.

What have the TUC said?

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC and chairwoman of Action for Rail, told the BBC: "At a time when real wages are falling and household budgets are being squeezed, rail travellers are being forced to endure yet another year of inflation-busting fare increases.

"As well as having to shell out record amounts of money for their tickets, passengers also face the prospect of travelling on trains with fewer staff and having less access to ticket offices. They are being asked to pay much more for less."

Annual rail fare rises take effect today. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Leader: Europe and the long shadow of war

Amid the rancour, it is easy to forget what drove European integration in the first place: the two great wars in the first half of the 20th century.

Amid all the claims and counterclaims about David Cameron’s so-called renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the European Union, it is often forgotten, or conveniently ignored, just how successful the European project has been in helping to create and maintain the post-Second World War peace order.

We support continued British membership of the EU but are sceptical of the imperial ambitions of the European elites. We opposed British membership of the single currency, a decision that the eurozone crisis has vindicated. It is obvious that the Schengen Agreement is unravelling and in all likelihood is unsustainable, as embattled nation states reimpose emergency border controls and the continent grapples with its worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. Like the British government, we are opposed to further political and economic integration and to the creation of a federal or quasi-federal superstate.

However, at a time of profound instability in the world, we accept that it would be foolish for the United Kingdom to retreat from our various multilateral peace alliances – whether that be membership of the EU or, indeed, Nato (as some on the left would wish) – all of which involve some kind of surrender of sovereignty.

Amid the rancour, it is easy to forget what drove European integration in the first place. The two great wars in the first half of the 20th century racked the continent, with neighbouring armies slaughtering each other on a scale that still defies comprehension. As Alistair Horne writes on page 22, “the most atrocious battle in history” began a century ago next week in Verdun, France, on the Western Front. The German army hoped to lure the enemy into a trap and then “bleed the French army white” using its superior firepower. Yet the rivers of blood flowed both ways: in ten months, over 25 square miles, pounded by heavy artillery and poisoned with gas, 300,000 French and German soldiers died.

The lessons of the battle were not quickly learned – the carnage of the Second World War was still to come – yet ultimately they were. In 1963, France’s Charles de Gaulle, who was wounded at Verdun, signed a treaty with the then German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, binding two countries that had engaged for centuries in tit-for-tat wars in an enduring nexus of co-operation. The aim, as David Reynolds notes in his article on page 28, was “to free the next generation from the vice of nationalism”.

Two decades later, President François Mitterrand, who fought near Verdun in 1940, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose father served there in 1916, attended a commemoration ceremony at one of the battle sites. In what became an iconic image of reconciliation at the heart of Europe, Mitterrand impulsively gripped Kohl’s hand during their national anthems. The two men were later the architects of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union under its current name.

These are troubling times for Europe. Confidence and optimism are low. The wars in the Middle East and the rise of Islamic State, Russian revanchism and financial and economic turbulence have dented the morale of even the most committed liberal Europhiles. In addition, the EU seems unable or unwilling to control or police its borders, just as it has been unable to bring an end to the crisis in the eurozone. Nor is it any closer to forging a common foreign policy, let alone forming a common European army that might be necessary in future years to patrol the outer edges of the continent.

“Unless the EU can find solutions to the problems Europe is facing that are acceptable to its members . . . the Union will be on a glide path to collapse,” wrote the historians Brendan Simms and Timothy Less in a recent issue of the New Statesman. And yet, for all its flaws and present difficulties, the EU remains a force for stability in the world. It embodies the liberal, rules-based order without which barbarism and war are never far away, as the centenary of the Battle of Verdun so poignantly reminds us. 

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle