With news recently emerging from the Rail Delivery Group that UK fares are set to rise by 3.1% in January, the cost of train travel in this country is about to take another hike, which will affect commuters worst of all. Annual passes and regular travellers are likely to see their costs soar by hundreds of pounds at least as a direct consequence of this decision, despite passenger groups having lobbied for a price freeze in the wake of widespread disruption to several key services across the country this year.
One of the busiest commuter hubs in the country, Manchester is likely to feel a real hit as a result of these increases, with all five stations across the city servicing a huge number of travellers per day. The busiest station, Manchester Piccadilly, actually has around 25 million passengers pass through its doors annually, making it the fourth most used station outside of London in the entire country.
What’s most concerning is that, in a purely economic sense, the growth of rail fare costs have begun to far out strip any rise in wages, with ‘real pay’ having actually gone backwards in the past decade. For example, a season ticket from Halifax to Manchester – a popular commuter route – will be increasing 3.1% next year, taking its already high £2,672 price up to £2,756, costing £84 more overnight for the same service. Similarly, going from Manchester to Preston currently costs £2,836-per-year, but the 3.1% increase will add a further £88 to the piece, taking it to £2,924 from 2019.
Consensus amongst consumers is that rail travel is fast becoming an unaffordable option, with a recent online scandal highlighting that an open same return train ticket from London to Manchester – costing £338 – was actually more expensive than long haul flights to New York, Moscow or Sydney, without even guaranteeing a seat.
These price increases are only likely to serve as a deterrent where train travel is concerned, and that will affect local businesses attached to Manchester’s major stations are a direct consequence. With the city a popular destination for both tourists from abroad and people domestically looking for a day out within a major city, if they’re priced out of coming via rail, that could be costing the city in the long run. Even smaller businesses, such as the mini-cabs that operate outside of the stations and rely on heavy footfall – and companies such as Cab Direct who make their trade in specialist taxi sales – may feel the effect, which would be a real shame for local business.