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Old prices - what would the equivalent price have been in 1966?

What did a cup of tea in a café cost 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

What was the rail fare from London to Manchester in 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996 and 2006?

Such questions prove to be very hard to research and find answers for on the Internet. I suspect that's partly because the Internet wasn't around in those days, partly because suppliers want their current prices to prevail so that customers aren't confused, and partly because suppliers want to have you forget as quickly as possible when they have put their prices up. It's called suppressing history!

I did manage to find that the rail fare from London to Manchester was 5 pounds in 1966 - I'm not sure if that was single or return. How does that compare value-wise to today's standard return fare of 262 pounds?

learning PythonI HAVE managed to find an inflation file for - I'm guessing - retail prices, and I used the question I've asked above as an exercise on the Python course I started on Monday and Tuesday (and will conclude at the end of next week - delegates want time to try things out, and need time to do their other work!). The source code is [here] and the inflation rate file [here]

Let's see how that works for the train fare:

wizard:python graham$ python inflate
What does it cost now? 262.00
When do you want to go back to? 1966
In 2009 it would have cost 263.32
In 2008 it would have cost 253.19
In 2007 it would have cost 242.75
In 2006 it would have cost 235.22
In 2005 it would have cost 228.82
[snip]
In 2000 it would have cost 202.46
[snip]
In 1995 it would have cost 176.54
[snip]
In 1990 it would have cost 141.11
[snip]
In 1985 it would have cost 109.16
[snip]
In 1980 it would have cost 69.31
[snip]
In 1975 it would have cost 33.68
[snip]
In 1970 it would have cost 21.33
In 1969 it would have cost 20.24
In 1968 it would have cost 19.33
In 1967 it would have cost 18.86
In 1966 it would have cost 18.15
wizard:python graham$



So that means that today's 262 return would have been 18.15 return in 1966. Hmm - that makes the 5.00 look excellent value whether it's single or return. It's also a bit of a headscratcher ... with more efficient systems, higher passenger numbers giving the benefits of scale, why on earth has the cost risen so much in real terms?

I don't know the answer ...




Illustration - on the Python Course




Comment from Anon - 15th July

You may find the data on inflation and prices you were seeking at www.data.gov.uk or maybe at least a pointer of where it might be stored.

An inflation measure that I find interesting is that here in Wiltshire for every £100 of community charge, charged in 1993/4 by the then West Wiltshire District Council (at the time when the community Charge was first introduced) the charge made by Wiltshire Council in 2010/11 is £279.06 and that for every £100 paid in state pension in 1993/4 the payment is now £163.25. A difference of £115.81.

I know that it is argued that the pressures on local authority inflation and the numerous changes in government funding to local authorities accounts for a lot of the increases and is very different from the RPI or CPI that faces the individual. However, it is little wonder that some elderly people in some locations have felt strongly enough to object to the point of being sent to prison for non payment of their community charge. A local authority can set its community charge within certain central government guidelines and the local residents have little choice but to pay, unlike seeking a service from the private sector where there are usually opportunities to seek alternative suppliers offering competitive prices and providing the service the buyer really wants.

I think you were searching back as far as 1966 - I cannot go back that far but from 1984 the general rate charged by the then newly formed WWDC through to community charge and council tax now charged by Wiltshire Council has increased has been almost 758%.

Further comment from me

All this makes me realise just how complex inflation figures are - and how relative values change over the years. What I was really looking for was how many miles you can travel by train for the price of a cup of tea in at various key times.

Looking at the detail, I guess a lot of it comes down to how service based a product is, and how much methods and technologies have moved forward - the computer I'm typing at has come down in price ...





Update - see Historic Inflation Calculator at thismoney.co.uk
(written 2010-07-14, updated 2010-11-05)

 
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