Rail fare increase takes effect

Rail fares are going up by an average of 5.9%, but some commuters will find their season tickets are rising by almost 11%.

Under an annual price-rise formula, regulated fares, which include season tickets, are increasing by an average of 6%.
But compared with January 2011 prices, the cost of a Chester-Crewe annual season ticket goes up 10.6% as does a season ticket for travel between Llandudno and Bangor in Gwynedd.

Some of the Northern train company's West Yorkshire Metro season tickets are also going up well above the national average, with a Leeds to Wakefield season rising 8.09%. Some London commuters will also have to fork out for above-average increases, with a season ticket between Northampton and the capital rising 6.9% to £4,756.

The rises are bad enough for commuters who mostly cannot hope to match the fare rises with comparable salary increases. Yet things could have been even worse, as the Government had originally intended to raise the January 2012 annual increase for regulated fares from RPI inflation plus 1% to RPI plus 3%. This would have put up regulated fares by an average of 8%. However, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his recent autumn statement that the RPI plus 1% formula would, after all, apply this year.

But the Government still plans to operate a RPI plus 3% formula for January 2013 and January 2014, leaving hard-pressed passengers to hope that promises of a reduction in inflation will be fulfilled. There was a similar "reprieve" for London travellers who had faced Tube and bus rises of around 7% from today until an extra £136 million of Government was found to limit the London increases to an average of 5.6%.

Campaign groups and transport unions have bemoaned the 2012 increases which come at a time when rail regulators have warned Network Rail about poor punctuality on some long-distance routes.

Last week, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) released figures showing that passengers in Europe can pay between three-and-a-half times and nearly 10 times less for their annual season tickets on routes of around 23 miles than their British counterparts. But the Government, train companies and London Mayor Boris Johnson have all stressed that fare rises are necessary to sustain investment in Tube and main line systems that are attracting more and more passengers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will have to dig deep in their pockets to cover the 6%-and-more fare rises coming into effect on Monday. Whatever the weather, these rail fare rises will make for a frosty return to work."

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Money raised through fares helps to pay for better services. For a number of years, the Government has sought to sustain investment in the railways by reducing what taxpayers contribute and increasing the share that is paid for by passengers."
© 2012 Press Association
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