4 December 2012

Mind the Gap between the Train and the Bus

Chris Dillow writes that the richest households spend 20 times more than the poorest households on train fares, but for bus fares there is little difference between the spending of the rich and poor. This is evidence that Philip Hammond was right when he said (to much hand-wringing) the railways are a "rich man's toy".

Now, we all hear about how much train fares have increased over the years, with above-inflation rises becoming an inevitability. Every year the announcement of train fare rises is a major news story. Politicians are always keen to be seen taking a stance against train fare rises and be seen on the side of commuters.

What we don't hear about anywhere near about are bus fare rises. I don't know why, especially given the impact of these fare rises hit the poorest households far more than train fares. As Will Straw pointed out on Left Foot Forward a few months ago, bus fares surged even more than rail fares during Labour's period in government.

There are far times more bus journeys taken than train journeys. There were 5 billion bus journeys in England alone last year, compared to 1.3 billion rail journeys across the whole of Great Britain.

Despite this, MPs have basically ignored the relentless increase in bus fares. Compare the Google results for "MP rail fares" and "MP bus fares" to see how little attention the latter receives.

If our politicians really want to show they're on the side of the hardest-pressed, they ought to pay a lot more attention to the buses.

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