Following swiftly on from the Season of Good Will comes the annual Season of Rail Fare Increases. On 2 January 2013 year, ticket prices will increase by an average of 4%. In January 1917, the increase was up to 50% and it was accompanied by a decline in services.
In December 1916, the Board of Trade announced new regulations with wide-ranging impact on travellers. Railway companies announced changes to take effect in the New Year:
- Increase in fares by up to 50%
- Limit passengers’ luggage was limited to 100lb (this was to reduce the work of the depleted number of railway porters, many having enlisted)
- Abolition of cheap excursion tickets (many had already disappeared in 1914)
- Running fewer trains, and slower services (some trains to run more slowly, but also more Express services cut than stopping services)
- Reduction in dining cars
- No longer allowing ‘reservation of seats, and compartments, and saloons for private parties’
These changes were not aimed at commuters, though. They were intended to reduce the amount of pleasure travel to free up capacity to support the war effort. The increase in fares did not apply to season tickets, workers’ tickets (i.e. those before a certain time in the morning), traders’ tickets and ‘zone tickets’. They also did not apply to the Underground (unlike in 2013) other than where it went outside London, such as beyond Acton on the District line.
There were also numerous station closures, many of them temporary for the duration of the war. For example, the London, Brighton and South Coast railway company announced the reduction in services between the capital and the closure of stations on that line. These included South Bermondsey, Old Kent Road, Tooting Junction, Merton Abbey, and Selsdon Road in London, and further stations in Brighton.
The London and North West Railway also announced the closure of a number of stops, including some in London:
At the end of January, the Times reported that the changes had been successful in their aim of reducing non-work travel. Travel was down 20% overall and there had been a particular impact on the level of travel between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, many more people were using season tickets (which had previously not given a significant discount on travel in London). Another change that accompanied this was that people were asked to show their season tickets to the inspector, where before a declaration that one had a season ticket was enough!
The Railway Companies’ New Year’s gift of increased fares is not a modern phenomenon. The increase in 1917 – and the reduction in service – was a particularly dramatic one. Where modern fare changes seek to get people onto off-peak services, the 1917 changes were aimed at reducing unnecessary railway travel in wartime.