There is one thing about trains that you can always rely on.
Every Autumn, Network Rail announces another inflationary price increase that exceeds average wage growth across the UK. For 2019, the average fare rise will by 3.2%.
Although we have recently seen wages rise faster than at any point in the last decade, they are still below the fare rise at 3.1%.
But how do our train services measure up? And are there any ways in which commuters can save money?
Are UK trains more expensive than other countries?
The answer here is yes and no. Peak, on-the-day and season tickets are consistently higher than our European neighbours (by an average of around 30%). However, advance bookings are often cheaper in the UK. This is good news for those booking holidays and trips in the UK, but not so good for those who rely on peak time season tickets for their work.
Have services improved?
Over the past decade, Which? Magazine reports that customer satisfaction with punctuality and reliability has dropped from 79% to 73% and overall satisfaction has stagnated.
In the same ten year period, train fares have increased by 40%. That’s one and a half times above CPI Inflation (26%).
Journey times are clearly improving and credit should be given where it is due. The fastest train into London from our HQ here in East Kent has been cut from over 2 hours down to 1 hour 12 mins in that same ten year period. We have quicker access to more places than we have ever had.
On the other hand, 2018 saw the biggest overhaul of our national train timetable in recent history and the disastrous roll out caused over 100,000 trains to be cancelled or part-cancelled between April 1st and 21st July. That equates to 900 trains a day being hit by full or partial cancellation during the timetable changes.
We should acknowledge the overall improvements in service frequency and journey times, but it seems there has been little improvement to delay and cancellation rates.
Are there any long-term solutions to rising fares?
As it stands, fare rises will be done in the same way until there is legislative change. With unions, private companies, government and contractors all having to find agreement, it is unlikely to change anytime soon.
So, what can you do to protect yourself from the most recent price rise?
6 Practical Tips for Commuters
Tip 1: Buy your season ticket early
Ensure any season tickets are purchased before the fare increases – the official date for the change is January 2nd.
Tip 2: Research Rail Cards
Aged 16-25? Aged over 65? Travelling mostly in the SE? Travelling in a two or as a family? A lot of people don’t know about their entitlement to a Rail Card. Well, why not check today at www.railcard.co.uk?
Tip 3: Know your rights.
This brilliant article from The Money Advice Service shows you how to claim money for delays with direct links to each train company’s refunds page. How many times have you been delayed and not got the compensation you deserve?
Tip 4: Buy advance tickets
You probably already know this, but it is so important we have included it. If you work flexibly, try and buy advance tickets. We understand this isn’t always possible, but if you can do this just twice a year, you will save money.
Tip 5: Avoid fees
Many ticket booking websites operate a booking fee. We recommend using nationalrail.com to book tickets – there will be no hidden fees or charges.
Tip 6: Use every trick in the book
Ever heard of ‘split-ticketing’? This article by the BBC explains what it means and how you can cut costs on those longer journeys. Always take a moment to double check you have the best fare possible – it can be confusing but once you understand it, you can save money.
We believe that everyone should have a fair chance to work. We also understand that the UK rail network does need to be upgraded – it was never designed to carry 22,500 trains a day and support 1.7 billion passenger journeys a year. These numbers continue to grow and it is understandable that investment is needed.
Individuals should take a moment to ensure they are getting the best possible deal and we hope these tips have helped.
At Morgan Jones we are passionate about helping people to find the right job and we understand that your commute is a big part of that. We work with clients across the UK and If you’d like to chat about opportunities, send me an email on email@example.com and I will pass you on to one of experienced consultants.