TODAY’S inflation announcement will inevitably mean another kick in the teeth for long-suffering rail passengers. It will be used to calculate next January’s annual fare rises and commuters now face an increase in the region of 2.8 per cent – the equivalent of just over £100 a year.
Yet, while the Government and rail industry will say that this is a small price to pay in order to finance improvements to the network and fund new trains, this view who will not be universally shared by the travelling public who continue – in too many instances – to be treated with contempt.
And, in this respect, this represents an opportunity for Grant Shapps, the new Transport Secretary, to start to win back some of the trust that was lost by his inept predecessor Chris Grayling.
He should be warning each operator – including the under-performing Northern and TransPennine Express outfits – that fare increases must be matched by commensurate improvements to reliability or the worst offenders will be stripped of their franchises.
Mr Shapps, whose Welywn Hatfield constituency is served by the East Coast Main Line, should also be announcing measures to make it easier for passengers to obtain financial redress when services are late.
Yet, while this back-to-basics approach will provide some relief for all those commuters having to pay even more for the privilege of standing on overcrowded rush-hour services, including those ubiquitous Pacer trains still in service here, it will be a start and begin to show that the Government is – belatedly – on the side of passengers.