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The very unfair fare rises

Some fares have risen by nearly 30% over the last 5 years!

This post is about National Rail fares in zones 1-6 for operators using the NR1 farescale.  That’s most fares for Southeastern, Southern, SouthWestern Railway and Thameslink south of the river Thames plus Thameslink and Great Northern north of West Hampstead and Finsbury Park.  These Oyster fares are set by the Rail Delivery Group with input from the TOCs so that the same fares can be set for all the companies.

The fares are adjusted each January using the same formula for regulated fares throughout the UK.  This means that on average fares rose by around 2-3% each year.  There is a problem where the fare in question is quite small, because the increase must be a multiple of 10p.  A 2% rise on a £2 fare is only 4p, so when rounded up to 10p the increase becomes 5%.  The logical and fair thing to do would be to increase one year and then freeze the next so that cheaper fares did not become disproportionately more expensive.  Sadly that hasn’t happened.

The table below lists all the relevant adult fares comparing 2015 with 2020 and showing the increase over those 5 years.  As you can see, every fare has risen by 10p each year with the single exception of the peak zone 1-6 fare.

 Peak fares Off-peak fares
Zones20152020%Inc20152020%Inc
1£2.40£2.9020.8%£1.90£2.4026.3%
1-2£2.60£3.1019.2%£2.10£2.6023.8%
1-3£3.30£3.8015.2%£2.40£2.9020.8%
1-4£3.80£4.3013.2%£2.70£3.2018.5%
1-5£4.90£5.4010.2%£3.10£3.6016.1%
1-6£6.00£6.8013.3%£3.70£4.2013.5%
2/3/4/5/6£1.90£2.4026.3%£1.70£2.2029.4%
2-3/3-4/4-5/5-6£2.30£2.8021.7%£1.90£2.4026.3%
2-4/3-5/4-6£2.70£3.2018.5%£2.10£2.6023.8%
2-5/3-6£3.40£3.9014.7%£2.40£2.9020.8%
2-6£4.00£4.5012.5%£2.60£3.1019.2%

Winners and Losers

If you travel from Bexleyheath, or any other zone 5 station, to a London Terminal at peak times then you’ve seen your fares rise by just over 10%.  But travel off-peak within a single zone, for example Crayford to Erith, and your fares have risen three times as much, by nearly 30% (26% in zone 1).

The 2021 revision

As things stand fares are due to rise by 1.6% in January.  If it is decreed that every fare above must rise again then the disparity will just get worse.  Only the peak zones 1-6 fare will be just above the 10p threshold, at 10.9p.  I therefore propose that any fares with an increase of less than 5p should this year be frozen.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you for highlighting

    Do you know any figures to show how much %income rail operators get from shorter njourneys?

  2. It’s getting increasingly silly that we are rounding fares anyway in my opinion. We could round (up) at the point of final payment for cash transactions, and use exact fares for everything else. Of course I would expect that to be very unpopular in some circles but it’s how it works in many other countries.

  3. Hi Ian,

    I don’t have any details. I think the shorter the journey the more likely it is to know exactly what operator provided the service, so they potentially get more. The method of divvying up income is incredibly complex, especially when you come to working out who gets what once a cap has been reached.

    Chris – hmmm, beyond the scope of this site given that it would be a national rail decision.

  4. HI Mike can you please advise me on the cheapest route to travel from Peckham Rye SE15 to Maidenhead I’ve been online and it all seems abit confusing. I know I can’t use an Oystercard to travel to Maidenhead as its outside Zone 6 and GWR cover that route. I can go to London Bridge, then get the Underground to Paddington and from their a train to Maidenhead but with all the different service providers its mounting up. Any advise would be greatly appreciated I’m trying to get to Grenfell road in the next few weeks.

  5. Hi Chrissy,

    This one is a little complicated, sadly. You have two main choices, either use a paper ticket or use contactless PAYG. With paper you can take any route and the cost only varies depending on the time you travel. Leaving Peckham Rye before 0930 you’ll need the Anytime day return at £26.90, after that it’s the off-peak day return at £20.30.

    With contactless there are two routes as well as the peak and off-peak single fares. The cheap route involves taking Overground to Clapham Junction, another Overground to Shepherd’s Bush, Central line to Ealing Broadway then TfL-Rail or GWR to Maidenhead. The single fares are £11.90 before 0930 and £6.30 afterwards. Any other route is charged via zone 1 at £14.80 before 0930 and £8.90 afterwards. Single fares from Maidenhead back to Peckham Rye are charged off-peak in the afternoon peak time.

    I hope this helps, but if you can give me more detail about travel times and frequency I can be more specific.

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