Rail fares set to rise again by up to 2.8%
Rail users in the UK will be hit by a further rise in ticket prices which will come into effect next year.
The increase will be based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation measure for July of 2.8%.
The figure is likely to lead to an increase of more than £100 in the annual cost of getting to work for many commuters.
Passenger groups urged a change in the way ticket prices are calculated, as RPI is no longer a national statistic.
The cost of most train fares are set by train companies themselves, but about 40% of fares in England, Scotland and Wales are regulated so that they are only allowed to rise by an amount pegged to the RPI rate of inflation in July the previous year.
These regulated fares include annual season tickets.
The government’s preferred measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), increased to 2.1%.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has repeatedly said that CPI, the most widely watched and used measure of inflation, should be used instead of RPI.
Last month this was 2% and it is typically lower than the RPI rate of inflation.
CBT chief executive Darren Shirley said the expected ticket price rises were “exorbitant”.
“The government should commit now to January’s fares rise being linked to CPI,” he added.
The difference between the two is stark. For every £100 paid on a season ticket, using RPI over CPI has increased prices by about £6 since RPI was abandoned by the National Audit Office as a national statistic in 2013.
“The only benefactors of using the retail price index (RPI) to calculate the cost of rail fares are the train companies,” said Kevin Brown, savings specialist at Scottish Friendly, an investment firm.
“Passengers are therefore having to fork out more money to travel despite regularly having to deal with over-crowded and unpredictable services. The general outlook for consumers is already difficult and this will feel like another kick in the teeth for many hard-working families who are facing the prospect of a second recession in 10 years.
A monthly season ticket from Widnes to Liverpool, currently costing £129.80 will cost £133.43, an increase of £3.63.
A monthly pass from Reading to London will go from £442.00 to £454.38, up £12.38.
A season ticket from Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads today costs £162.10 a month. From January it will be £166.64, up £4.54.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It’s tempting to suggest fares should never rise. However, the truth is that if we stop investing in our railway, then we will never see it improved.”
The TUC, a federation of unions, renewed its call for the railway to be renationalised, arguing it would lead to lower ticket prices.
“We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains.
“The number one priority should be running a world-class railway service, not subsidising private train companies,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
Rachael, a commuter in Watford, Hertfordshire, told the BBC: “I’ve seen the rail fares increasing again this year, and for me it’s just becoming impossible to justify, and I’m worried I’ll be priced out of working in London within a few years if this keeps happening.
“The cost of my train ticket, and the dreadful service is causing me such grief, and I’m only travelling from Watford junction to Euston. It costs me £3,680 on an annual ticket.
“Something needs to change. Please.”