Ah yes, first working day of the year: time for all of the train companies to award themselves above-inflation price rises – even the regulated season ticket prices are going up by more than 3% and some of the unregulated ones are rising by more than twice that. I’m insulated for a couple of days because I (for once) had remembered to get my travelcard before the prices went up (and more importantly before everyone else in the entire world attempted to renew their travel cards this morning) but it will mean an extra quid a week for me from Thursday. SouthWest trains are being extremely coy on their website about how much they are raising prices by, but according to reports in the press GNER are hiking fares by almost 9% and Silverlink by around 6.5%. In Silverlink’s case they are simultaneously introducing penalty fares which should mean a large increase in revenue if they ever manage to enforce it – all, apparently, to be spent on increased investment. Hmm. I’ll believe that when I see it. (Of course, sending out a bloke with a can of paint and a roll of see-through bin liners for the Silverlink station platforms would count as a substantial increase in investment compared with last year’s spend so maybe it will happen after all…)
Meanwhile the real losers are the tourists and other visitors who want to keep buying single tickets on the underground, as the oyster card users simultaneously see their fares fall. This is obviously an incentive for most people to shell out the three quid deposit and get a pay as you go card. Putting my paranoid conspiracy theorist hat on (it’s black with a tinfoil helmet lining) I did wonder whether this was to encourage us all to be making nice traceable oyster card journeys instead of anonymous cash only ones but if so they’ve made the penalty too steep. Just two zone one journeys on an oyster saves you �3 over the paper ticket price – enough to cover the deposit on a pay as you go card – so you can get an oyster, commit your nefarious acts under an assumed name (or spend your three day mini break travelling around London … the two may not be mutually exclusive) and then chuck the incriminating piece of non-biodegradable plastic in the Thames. My prediction? Southend’s beaches will be knee deep in discarded oyster cards by the end of the decade. Remember, you read it here first.
It only remains for me to wonder what SouthWest Trains will be spending their mystery fare rise money on this year. Probably not more shiny new trains as they’ve got quite a lot of those already. Hopefully not booking more studio time for the automated train announcement voice man to record more annoying messages to while away the journey with. My request would be for them to hire somebody at Vauxhall who knows how to use the train information system computer. Since 2005*, the monitors in the tunnels and on the various platforms have all been displaying different fragments of a ‘new hardware installation’ dialog – platform 3 got the bottom left hand corner, platform 4 got the bit in the middle, the station entrance got the title bar, and so on. Presumably they have been waiting for someone fit enough to sprint around the station reading all the bits and then piece them together into something coherent. Either that or they are just a bit rubbish at using computers. You decide.
* Oh all right, only two working days ago, but still…