A report from consumer watchdog Which? found that it is now typically 50 percent dearer to travel around the country on trains than planes. Chris Heaton-Harris, the transport minister, is understood to want to devolve decision-making to regional heads of the new public body Great British Railways. Setting out his plans, he said: “Local leaders will have to… make decisions on levels of service and what those fares might look like. And those decisions, as I have learnt in the last few years, are not the easiest ones to take.
“I do think the closer you can make decisions to the people being affected by them, the better decisions you can take. The aspiration is to devolve as much as [possible] in a sensible way that doesn’t fracture the railway.”
Economists are forecasting train tickets will shoot up by 3.2percent in January under the current model that pegs fare increases to the previous July’s retail prices index (RPI).
And that is typically a higher rate than the Government’s official consumer prices index (CPI).
But switching it has been a political hot potato as many of the costs on the railways, such as wages and pension payments, are linked to RPI. Linking fares to CPI risks a funding shortfall.
The move has also been opposed by union bosses who fear it would lead to less generous pay deals for workers.
Regional responsibility for fares was first recommended by former British Airways boss Keith Williams in a Rail Review published in 2019.
The formal launch of Great British Railways is pencilled in for October, according to rail insiders.
It will be split into five regions under plans being considered.
But these developments provide further ammunition to critics of the new railways body who claim it is simply another form “nationalisation through the back door”.