Time for our biannual complaint that British rail tickets are too cheap

One of our little modern rituals is to point out twice a year that British rail tickets are too cheap. Once when the amount they will rise by is announced, sometime in the summer, and once when they are about to rise, at this time of year:

Rail passengers will be hit by the largest fares hike in five years next month.

Average ticket prices across Britain will go up by 3.4 per cent on January 2, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

It is the sharpest rise since 2013, when fares increased by 3.9 per cent.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus compared the news to "a chill wind" blowing down platforms as many passengers' incomes are stagnating or falling.

Contrary to much wibbling around the place the British system of railways is not notably more expensive than those of other countries. Rather, the difference is in who pays for it all. Here, passenger ticket prices pay for some 99% of operating costs. In many other countries there is a substantial contribution from the general taxpayer. That's what explains the difference in ticket prices.

We think it's just fine that those doing the travelling pay for the travel to be done. We do not see the point of taxing the dustman so that the Duke may go shooting.

There are parts of the network which really do need subsidy - the commuter lines around the largest cities. They also get that subsidy. Other parts of the network make a profit and the two largely balance each other. This might not be perfect but we do indeed insist that it's better than a general levy upon non-travellers to pay for those who travel.

That tickets are still too cheap is proven by the manner in which only operating costs are being covered - capital costs still largely devolve to the taxpayer. This should not be therefore tickets should cost more.