Transport campaigners have welcomed a temporary sale on train tickets across the UK, but argue that costs should be cut even further.

The government’s “Great British Rail Sale” will see off-peak prices slashed by as much as half, with cheaper travel on offer in April and May.

But the Campaign for Better Transport said wider price increases are “driving people off the railway”.

Passenger numbers on trains have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

About 285 million rail passenger journeys were made in Britain in the last three months of 2021 – just 62% of the levels seen before coronavirus struck, according to the Office of Rail and Road.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said more than one million train tickets would be reduced this spring.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is hoping the move will help struggling households to afford trips across the UK and boost the domestic tourism industry.

It comes after the highest train fare rises for nine years came into force for rail travellers in England and Wales last month.

The sale is expected to bring some Manchester to Newcastle journeys down to a little over £10, while seats on some London to Edinburgh services will be slashed from £44 to £22.

Discounted tickets will go on sale from Tuesday, with passengers eligible to travel for less on off-peak fares between 25 April and 27 May.

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, also said: “We want everyone to be able to benefit from travelling by train because it’s more than just a journey, it’s a way to connect everyone to the people, places and things they love.”

‘Little respite for passengers’

The Campaign for Better Transport, however, said that it had been pushing for action to improve passenger levels for months.

It welcomed the move by the government, but Norman Baker, its chief executive’s adviser and former transport minister said: “It can show the Treasury that the way to increase income is to cut fares, not keep ratcheting them up and driving people off the railway.”

“This initiative, though very welcome, is but a first step,” he added, calling for an end to annual fare rises and a review of tickets and travel patterns following the rise of hybrid working during the pandemic.

DfT said reforms to the rail sector through the so-called “Williams-Shapps” plan for rail will mean that network-wide sales of tickets should be able to take place more easily in the future.

But Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said that in the meantime, the temporary move would provide little respite “to passengers who had thousands taken out of their pockets from soaring fares since 2010.”

She pointed out: “And the decision to end the sale just before half-term will mean many families face the same punishing costs over the holidays.”

Regulated fares in England and Wales increased by up to 3.8% last month.

They cover around half of fares and include season tickets on most commuter routes and it marked the steepest increase since January 2013, according to figures from industry body the Rail Delivery Group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *