Rail fares increase: season ticket cost to rise 'by hundreds of pounds'

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Rail commuters are to be hit with eye watering fare rises of 3.6 per cent next year, adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of season tickets.

Protests are planned in response to the soaring fares, the highest rise in five years, as unions warn that passengers are paying “more for less”.

The Office for National Statistics said the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which is used to calculate train ticket prices, rose by 3.6% in July, up from 3.5% in June. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan blasted “sky-high” rise in price: “It beggars belief that the Government is yet again inflicting sky-high rail fare increases on commuters,” he wrote online.

“If I can freeze TfL fares, there is no reason why the Government can’t do the  same for national rail and commuter services.”

Regulated fares make up almost half of all tickets and include season tickets and standard returns.

10 years of fare increases

2008: up 5.1%

2009: up 6%

2010: down 0.4%

2011: up 6.4%

2012: up 6.2%

2013: up 4.2%

2014: up 3%

2015: up 2.4%

2016: up 0.8%

2017: up 1.9%

2018: 3.6%

Fewer than half (47%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to the latest survey by passenger watchdog Transport Focus.

It has been the policy of successive governments to reduce the funding of the railways by taxpayers and increase the relative contribution of passengers.

Yesterday the RMT union unveiled figures that showed rail fares have risen by around 32 per cent in eight years, while average weekly earnings have grown by only 16 per cent.

Rail unions said that, even as fares rise, rail engineering work is being delayed or cancelled, skilled jobs are being lost and staff are being cut on trains, stations and ticket offices. 

Commuters arrive at London Victoria station (Getty Images)

They are calling for reduced fares, public ownership and protection of jobs during protests on Tuesday outside railway stations across the country – including London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association leader Manuel Cortes said: “Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask when he robbed his passengers. Today train companies, with the Government’s blessing, hide behind the Retail Price Index as a method of legitimately fleecing more money from hard-pressed passengers at the start of each new year.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “After years of austerity, when workers have not achieved pay increases for years at or around inflation, it is unfair that the industry they subsidise creates transport poverty and hurts the communities and industries that they should be supporting.”

Examples of annual season tickets at current prices include:

  • Brighton to London £4,184

  • Liverpool to Manchester £3,044

  • Worcester to Birmingham £1,348

  • Bath to Bristol £1,580

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph called on the Government to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation to set rail fares. 

CPI is generally lower than RPI and is used to calculate changes in benefits.

Campaigners want the Government to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation to set rail fares. (Rex)

Mr Joseph said: “This rise will be the highest since 2013, and will leave many commuters struggling to meet the cost of their commute next year.

“Passengers would be forgiven for thinking they are being taken for a ride when RPI has been dropped as an official measure for most other things.”

The ONS warned last month that RPI is “flawed” and has “serious shortcomings”.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sparked outrage with an announcement just before Parliament went into summer recess that plans to electrify rail routes between Cardiff and Swansea; Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield; and Windermere and Oxenholme are cancelled or downgraded.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Government carefully monitors how rail fares and average earnings change, and keeps under review the way fare levels are calculated.”

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