Commuters braced for rail fare rise

Preston and Leyland Citizen: Fares are going up for rail travellers. Fares are going up for rail travellers.

Passengers will pay higher rail fares from tomorrow, with annual season tickets rising by an average of 3.1%.

The increase pushes some commuters into the £5,000-a-year "club", with annual season tickets to London from Deal and Dover Priory costing £5,012.

The rise also means some annual season tickets will break the £4,000 mark, with a Basingstoke-London annual fare now rising to £4,076.

The 3.1% rise is for regulated fares which include season tickets. The rise on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.

But a number of these fares, including some on the East Coast route, are going up by much less than 3.1%, with the overall rise in tickets - regulated and unregulated - being 2.8%.

The increase could have been even greater, but Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement in early December that the regulated fare price cap of RPI inflation plus 1% was being changed to RPI plus 0%.

Campaign groups have complained about the annual increase, with the Campaign for Better Transport saying that fares are rising three times faster than wages.

Rail unions have also been quick to point out the high cost of rail travel in the UK compared with the rest of Europe.

Jason Torrance, policy director of sustainable transport organisation Sustrans, said: "The Chancellor's move to bring an end to the inflation-busting fare rises we've seen over the last decade shows a recognition that rising transport costs are a barrier to economic recovery.

"But commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren't increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation. If transport remains so prohibitively expensive, we will continue to restrict travel choices and opportunities to access essential services and employment."

:: Here are examples of rail fare rises. The table compares the price of a 12-month season ticket bought in January 2013 to one bought from January 2 2014.

The table does not include the price paid if within-London travelcards are also purchased for Tube and bus journeys in the capital.

Where London is mentioned, this means travel to London terminal stations where travel is allowed by any route option shown by the National Rail Enquiry system journey planner where the journey can be made using only one ticket.

ROUTE JAN 2013 JAN 2014 PERCENTAGE RISE

Leeds-Wakefield £964 £992 2.9%

Basingstoke-London £3,952 £4,076 3.13%

Ramsgate-London £4,864 £5,012 3.04%

Folkestone Central -London £4,836 £4,984 3.06%

Bedford-London £4,172 £4,300 3.07%

Sevenoaks-London £3,112 £3,208 3.08%

Cheltenham Spa-London £9,184 £9,468 3.09%

Deal-London £4,864 £5,012 3.04%

Woking-London £2,896 £2,980 2.9%

West Malling-London £3,876 £3,996 3.1%

Guildford-London £3,224 £3,320 2.98%

Dover Priory-London £4,864 £5,012 3.04%

Ludlow-Hereford £1,992 £2,032 2%

Morpeth-Newcastle £1,008 £1,040 3.17%

Milton Keynes-London £4,620 £4,772 3.29%

Tunbridge Wells- London £4,132 £4,260 3.1%

Aylesbury-London £3,632 £3,732 2.75%

Hastings-London £4,304 £4,432 2.97%

Which? magazine said its analysis showed:

:: The average household spends 14% of its income on transport;

:: On average, households spend £530 a year on public transport with 30-49 year olds spending the most - £744 on average;

:: Only 30% of consumers trust the rail industry to act in their best interests - less than those who trust the banking industry (33%);

:: Only 30% of people are planning to spend less on transport in the next few months (compared to 56% on clothing and 40% on groceries and food);

:: 59% say they feel able to complain which is one of the worst scores across all industries Which? looked at, with only trade services (53%) and long-term financial products (51%) scoring less.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "The Government's action to limit rail fare price rises, announced in the Autumn Statement, will help commuters but any increase will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze.

"The Government must ensure it is doing everything to put consumers first and help keep the unavoidable costs of living in check."

Bruce Williamson of the campaign group Railfuture, said: "This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe.

"There's no doubt that this will mean increasing financial pain for many ordinary commuters who are facing a cost of living crisis."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government understands concerns rail passengers have about the costs of fares and the impact they have on household budgets. That is why next year, for the first time in a decade, regulated fares will not rise on average by more than the rate of inflation, offering relief for families and the hard-working people.

"As a result of the economic policies that this government has put in place, the most recent forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility are that by around 2015, fares will be rising in line with wages and salaries."

He went on: "Meanwhile, the fares passengers pay will continue to drive forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever, with £38 billion being invested over the next five years.

"That means new state-of-the-art trains, better stations and hundreds of miles of electrified track which will help cut journey times, drive down running costs and stimulate economic growth across the country."

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "David Cameron's cost-of-living crisis continues as fares rise this week by up to 5%, while season tickets have gone up by 20% under this Government, costing hard-working commuters hundreds of pounds.

"Over the last three years David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people, allowing train companies to hit passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of up to 9%."

Michael Roberts, director-general of the Rail Delivery Group which speaks on behalf of the rail industry, said: "We strongly support the Government's decision to limit the average increase in season ticket prices this year.

"This, combined with the determination of train companies to continue attracting passengers, means the average increase across all fares is 2.8%, the lowest in four years. To help the Government hold down fares in future, the rail industry is working hard to get more for every pound it spends.

"This year and in coming years, passengers across the country will continue to benefit from billions of pounds spent on improving services. As well as introducing more carriages, work will proceed on major projects like the new Birmingham New Street station and thousands of smaller, less visible schemes to improve the railway."

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