Rail fare rise biggest for five years

Train tickets coming out of machineImage copyright
PA

Train fares in Britain will go up by an average of 3.4% from 2 January.

The increase, the biggest since 2013, covers regulated fares, which includes season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets.

The Rail Delivery Group admitted it was a “significant” rise, but said that more than 97% of fare income went back into improving and running the railway.

A passenger group said the rise was “a chill wind” and the RMT union called it a “kick in the teeth” for travellers.

The rise in regulated fares had already been capped at July’s Retail Prices Index inflation rate of 3.6%.

The fare increase is above the latest Consumer Prices Index inflation figure of 3%, which was a five-and-a-half year high.

Are you joining the ‘£5k commuter club’?

The chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said: “While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days.”

One in nine trains (12%) have arrived late at their destinations in the past 12 months.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: “For public sector workers and many others in our communities who have had their pay and benefits capped or frozen by this government, these fare increases are another twist of the economic knife.

“The private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Paul Plummer, Rail Delivery Group chief executive, told the BBC’s Today programme: “We are very aware of the pressures on people and the state of the economy and are making sure everything we do is looking to improve and change and make the best use of that money.”

Mr Plummer admitted it was “a significant increase” – the highest since fares rose by 3.9% in January 2013.

Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent

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Getty Images

You might think that popularity is a good thing, but it’s causing the railways some problems.

Here’s some examples. Passenger numbers on routes into King’s Cross have rocketed by 70% in the past 14 years. On Southern trains, passenger numbers coming into London have doubled in 12 years.

That’s got to be good for easing congestion and reducing vehicle pollution… but much of our rail network is still Victorian and it’s buckling under the strain of all those extra people.

There is a push to bring in new trains, stations and better lines, but it’s difficult to upgrade things while keeping them open and it’s seriously expensive.

The money’s got to come from somewhere and in recent years it’s the fare payer that’s been asked to pick up a bigger proportion of the tab.

It means that, year in and year out, many people have seen their season ticket go up much more than their salary, if they’ve had a salary rise at all.

Investment

Figures published by the Office of Rail and Road figures in October showed that £4.2bn was given to the rail industry in 2016-17 – a drop of nearly 13% on the previous year, taking inflation into account,.

The Rail Delivery Group said that private investment in rail reached a record £925m in 2016-17.

It added that in the next 18 months, services around the country would be improved with more trains and better services and stations.

Routes to benefit include Crossrail, Thameslink, Edinburgh to Glasgow, Great Western and Waterloo and the South West while there will also be upgrades in the Midlands and the North.

Selection of new annual season ticket costs from January 2018

Woking to London – £3,248 – £112 increase

Ludlow to Hereford – £2,212 – £76 increase

Brighton to London – £4,332 – £148 increase

Liverpool to Manchester – £3,152 – £108 increase

Neath to Cardiff – £1,708 – £56 increase

Maidenhead to London – £3,092 – £104 increase

Whitehaven to Carlisle – £1,920 – £48 increase

Epsom to London – £2,228 – £76 increase

Gloucester to Birmingham – £4,108 – £140 increase

Thetford to Norwich – £1,932 – £64 increase

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