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Yep, it's that time of year again. Time to complain about train fare hikes. If you feel like this hits the headlines more than once a year, you're right. While they are implemented in early January each year, the amount they're likely to be increased by the following January is announced in the summer.
Who decides how much train fares are raised by?
While it's easy to get angry with the train operating companies (and it's not often you'd find us defending them), it's actually the government which sets the rule that train fares can only rise in line with the previous July's Retail Price Index (although there have been calls to change this). So when the Office for National Statistics announces that figure each August, train fares hit the headlines as commuters begin calculating what next year's ticket is likely to cost them.
Of course, the train operating companies don't have to increase their fares by that much, but... well, they nearly always do. I mean, wouldn't you?
So what are next year's fares like?
There's no one answer to that, given how varied fares are across the country — and often even on the same route. So we've taken at random five commuter towns, from where people commute into London, and compared their rises.
For comparison purposes, we've taken a standard class, monthly adult season ticket, avoiding special fares valid on special routes such as the High Speed railway, for all five towns. None of these tickets involve the tube or any other onward transport — this is just a season ticket for a return train journey, according to each operators' website.
We're then calculated what 3.2% of the current ticket is, and therefore what these commuters are likely to be paying come January:
If we were to take an average of these increases, it works out at £10.86 per month, or £130.46 across a 12 month period (yes, in this case an annual season ticket probably works out cheaper, but for many people this isn't an option, so we've stuck with monthly tickets). So what could we do with this £10.86 or £130.46?
Here's what you could have bought for that money
A TfL travelcard
It'll cost you just £131 for a zones 1-2 travelcard, so that's something you could *almost* have bought instead of shelling out £130 a year more for the exact same journey you currently do. Alright, the travelcard would only last you for a month, but you could have picked the month you most hate walking to your office (January, we're guessing), and then enjoy the pure, unadulterated joy of getting the tube or bus from the station to your office — instead of tottering there through ice and snow. But no, you'll be spending that money on your basic train ticket instead. Hope you've got sturdy shoes.
£10.87 is enough to buy you 16 First Class stamps (currently priced at 67p each), with change to spare. Naturally, you'd be using them to write letters of complaint to the train company about whichever inanimate item of furniture has delayed your safe passage home that day. Assuming you work a 5-day week, that's almost enough for one letter every day you travel. But of course, you won't have any stamp money, as it'll all be going on your train journey. Best add the train company's email address to your favourite contacts then, eh?
Depending who you believe, the average cost of a pint in London is anywhere between £4.20 and £5.19 in 2018 — let's call it a nice round £5, for ease. That means that when the fare increases kick in, you're looking at being more than two pints a month — or 26 pints a year — worse off.
Of course, if you're commuting in to London from the hinterlands, you'd probably do well to wait until you're back in your home town before imbibing, as beer is likely to be cheaper there. Actually, unless you've got an ironclad bladder, you're definitely better waiting until your journey's over.
Your face on your coffee
Coffee and commuters go together like... well, like trains and delays. You could have cheered yourself up by getting your face on your morning latte. At £7.50, you could have had one of these Elan Cafe concoctions a month, with plenty of change left. Could have. But you won't.
A Londonist mug
So, no fancy coffee for you, and no nice mug either. With £10 a month spare, you could have put it towards a lovely Londonist mug each time, and still got some change. Or, you could have put the whole £130 towards seven of our lovely Londonist t-shirts. Actually, y'know what? Ditch the commute altogether and spend all your money in our shop. Who needs to get to work anyway?
Your own train
Spend £130 on Flying Scotsman and you'll never have to buy a season ticket again. It's made to a 1:76 scale, and given that it won't need to fit a whole carriage of passengers in — just you — we reckon you could squeeze into if you managed to reduce yourself to a 1:38 scale of your current self. Still sounds less painful than your current commute, doesn't it?
Avocado on toast/deposit on a flat
Oh, do p*ss off.