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It’s been widely reported that rail commuters can expect to see train ticket prices rise by around 8% from early next year. But for some commuters in Wales, it’s still not clear how much their fares will increase.

That’s because the responsibility for deciding how much the increase will be on many services here in Wales is down to the Welsh Government which hasn’t yet decided what it will do.

It’s important to explain that the reason for the forthcoming increase is a formula decided by the UK Government and based on inflation as measured by the RPI figure.

In previous years, fares have gone up by RPI + 1%, but from January the increase will be RPI + 3%.

But when it comes to services operated by Arriva Trains which run in Wales or start and finish here*, it’s up to the Welsh Government to decide whether or not to stick with the RPI + 1% or follow the UK Government’s example and add 3%.

A spokesperson said,

The Welsh Government is currently reviewing the options for the setting of regulated rail fares for 2012 and will make a decision shortly.

It won’t be an easy decision for the Transport Minister Carl Sargeant.

On the one hand he could keep down fare increases on Arriva Trains services here but with the result that there’ll be less money for investment in train lines, stations and carriages.

Or he could match the increase on services running in England (and of course many in Wales such as First Great Western and Virgin). That would see more money come in for investment but risks putting passengers off travelling by rail, something he doesn’t want to see.

His Conservative shadow, Byron Davies, agrees it’s a conundrum, but reckons that ultimately investment is the most important thing. He told me,

If we’re to move forward, replacing ancient carriages and improving rail lines, you’ve got to go for investment. Connecting Wales is important and we have to build for tomorrow.

Although not as high-profile, it’s nevertheless reminiscent of the Welsh Government’s previous decision to hold down student tuition fees.

When it comes to rail fares, which track will it take?

 

* Regulated rail fares the Welsh Government is responsible for are the following on Arriva Trains Wales only:

  • Standard Day single
  • Standard Day return
  • Seven-day season tickets

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I bumped into the Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns earlier,  who had come fresh from a meeting with the Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

You may remember that when the £14bn plan for a defence training academy at the former RAF St Athan site in the Vale of Glamorgan was scrapped back in October , supporters of the UK Government said there was still a chance that it would be used as a base for training in the future.

The news from Alun Cairns after his meeting with Liam Fox is that although a decision has yet to be made, the plan to site training at a handful of locations around the UK is still very much alive and that St. Athan is still in contention to be one of those sites.

It’s not clear when any such announcement is likely to be made but you can make an educated guess. When it comes to big UK decisions affecting Wales, such as rail electrification and defence training, sources close to the Westminster Government talk about a ‘purdah period’ (which is essentially the Assembly election campaign) during which there won’t be any official announcements from London that might influence the vote in Wales one way or another.

For our purposes that means before the end of March and after May the fifth.

It’s my best guess that an electrification announcement will come before the end of March and defence training will be after May 5th.

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