I WAS genuinely shocked at the petrol pump on Boxing Day, as I filled up my car for a trip to visit in-laws up in the Midlands.

I knew, of course, the price of petrol had fallen – it was all over the news and a right song and dance was made about it. And yet I suspect I still didn’t quite believe it. When the pump clicked off and the cost registered was a few pounds cheaper than it has been for years, I genuinely, just for a second, thought it wasn’t working properly.

So with that in mind – a pleasant surprise at the fact that fuel is only overpriced now, instead of ridiculously overpriced (it wasn’t all that long ago it was less than £1 a litre, was it?), it seems a shame that regular rail users are going to get hit by another fare increase.

It is one set by national government, of course, so throwing a strop at the rail firms themselves is a bit pointless. And, of course, we are lucky, on the whole, to have Chiltern Railways as our service provider around here. I have, like many, used plenty of other rail firms in my time and it can be an ugly and pitiless world, train-wise, once you stray from the route that runs between Birmingham and Marylebone.

But even so, it is already extortionate to commute overland between south Bucks and London. The only reason to do it is because you have no choice, and the prospect of driving into the capital, congestion charge and all, is even worse.

Now a 2.2 per cent hike isn’t enormous, it is true – in fact, National Rail tells us proudly that it is the lowest rise in five years. But, as with so many things these days, any rise at all is bad news.

After all, many of us are still waiting for those annual wage increases we used to get in the distant days before the credit crunch hit to get going again. Anyone cursed with a commute from this area is over a barrel.

I obviously don’t commute to London anymore, but I still remember a time when I could get a quid or two in change from £10 when I used to buy travelcards. Now if it’s cash I’m paying its more like change from £25 for a trip to London. Or, of course, we simply abandon any misguided prospect of travelling greenly and drive to somewhere like Ickenham or Ruislip and get the tube instead. The only sensible option if you are trying to keep the costs down on a family trip to the capital.

None of which helps either rail-users or providers, or the environment come to that.

Network Rail says it intends, ultimately, to cut running costs of trains by around 20 per cent over the coming five years. Whether those efficiencies will be passed on to the consumers remains to be seen. You would hope it would, but that seems a bit like it might merely be misguided optimism.

But still, I once thought that about petrol prices too, and a quick online check as I write this tells me the cost of unleaded is ranging from 109.7p to 113.9p around the Wycombe area at the moment – far down from the 130p-plus I have grudgingly paid in recent years.

So perhaps, a few years from now at the ticket office somewhere along the Chiltern line, another Christmas surprise might await...