Greens call for rail fare freeze

Green Party leaders have called for a freeze on rail fares after a government announcement that price changes will be delayed and will increase by less than the rate of inflation.

Black and white image of people on a train
Black and white image of people on a train
Jack Randall

Green Party co-leaders Adrian Ramsay and Carla Deyner have called for a freeze on rail fares after a government announcement that price changes will be delayed to March 2024 and will increase by less than the rate of inflation.

Rail fare rises normally go into effect in January each year. They are decided in December and are based on the annual increase in Retail Price Index (RPI) measured the previous July. 

However, on Wednesday, the government indicated that ticket price rises will be delayed from January 2024 to March, and will be below the nine per cent RPI reported by the Office of National Statistics.

In response, Ramsay and Deyner both called on the government to freeze rail fares for at least the next year. Each comparing recent rail fare increases against a freeze in fuel duty for drivers and cuts to air passenger duty on domestic flights, they urged the government to ensure that rail passengers are not penalised for using a more sustainable form of transport. 

Even if there were no increase in price, recent research suggests that train travel is already more expensive than flying, with passengers paying on average 35 per cent more to travel by train than plane.

Speaking on the current prices, Carla Denyer, Green Party co-leader and parliamentary candidate for Bristol Central, said: “In the current climate, it doesn’t make any sense that Brits are paying more to travel by train than by plane.

“For example, a walk-on single train fare from Bristol to Edinburgh costs between £140 and £200 whilst you could fly from Bristol airport to Edinburgh with a same day booking for £95. 

“Plane journeys like this emit twice the CO2 on average compared to travelling by train.”

Commenting on the government’s decision, Ramsay added: “This government is moving in completely the wrong direction. Fuel duty has been frozen since 2011, while air passenger duty cuts this year will be a disaster for the climate crisis by encouraging people to fly more. 

“This is despite the fact UK rail passengers are already paying more to travel by train than flying and are faced with some of the most expensive tickets in Europe.  

“Emissions from transport are higher than for any other sector of the economy. If the UK is to meet its climate commitments then we need more people choosing trains over cars and planes, and we need more commuters opting for public transport and active travel to get to work. 

“Making train travel more expensive, while closing rail ticket offices that support travellers to get the best deal, would underscore the government’s contempt for climate action and the travelling public.

“Pushing up prices at all would make it harder for hard-pressed travellers to make the right decision for pocket and planet.

“That is why I am urging the government to come forward with a plan which will freeze rail fares. This would help address the cost of living crisis while helping to tackle the climate emergency.

“The Green alternative to the continued rundown of our railways is clear – make train travel affordable, safe and easy.

“That means bringing the whole rail system into public ownership, making sure it is always cheaper than the equivalent route by air or road, and encouraging more freight onto rail.

“That’s a win-win for the public and tackling the climate crisis."