Rail and bus fares increased last week. According to Translink, rail fares went up by an average of 4.5% and bus fares by an average of 4%. At face value the figures look reasonable but when we consider they are about three times the rate of inflation and come at a time of falling fuel prices, it’s a different picture.
Here’s another problem. On some routes the increases were above average.
A regular commuter, who buys a weekly ticket, on the line between Derry and Coleraine reported that his fare had increased by 7%. And he says the cost of his weekly ticket has always, in the past, increased by more than the headline average. “Perhaps Translink should explain in detail which method of calculating the average it is using and how it arrived at the figure,” he said.
Also we don’t know on what basis the company selects routes for higher than average increases. In fairness, we should acknowledge that services on the Derry line have improved and further improvements are promised. Translink may consider that justifies higher fares. We don’t know; they haven’t told us.
“With falling fuel prices and rising fares there is less to be saved by leaving the car at home,” says the Derry commuter. “Does the NI Executive, the Department of Regional Development and Translink believe that this policy is going to get more people to use public transport,” he asked?
Some may suspect that the public transport network is being fattened up for sale to the private sector.