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Rail commuters are braced for eye watering fare rises of around 3.5 per cent next year, adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of season tickets.
Protests are expected to break out today when the official figures are revealed at 9.30am, as unions warn that passengers are paying “more for less”.
The Government links the annual January rise in Britain’s regulated fares with the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which will be announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning.
It is predicted to be around 3.5%, leading to the highest increase in fares in five years.
Regulated fares make up almost half of all tickets and include season tickets and standard returns.
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.
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.
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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