Just in case the return to work isn't painful enough, the train fare hikes are there to add insult to injury, with price increases of at least 6%. It's the last thing we need at the moment, but it isn't the last of the fare hikes we have to face.
Not by a long chalk...
January increasesThe increases in January focused on those tickets where the government cap applies. The cap keeps a lid on the cost of these tickets, although they are still allowed to go up by inflation plus 3% (or inflation plus 1% this year because inflation is so high). Controlled tickets tend to be things like season tickets, where the cap is designed to make sure we can all still afford to commute.
The fact that RPI was so high this year means that controlled tickets rose by 6%. Yesterday there were a series of protests at stations around the country and commuters reacted with a mixture of outrage and resignation.
Two more to comeHowever, while 6% is an astonishing increase at a time when we can ill-afford any more price hikes, this still leaves an incredible array of tickets which are not controlled by the cap, and it's here where we can expect outrageous rises later this year - not once but twice.
ConfusionIn many cases they may use the fact that there are two rounds of increases in order to make the increases unequal and confusing. The train companies will dissipate the reaction and bamboozle people by increasing some fares far more than others, so they can keep the averages down.
Popular trains may, for example, see a 10% rise in prices over the year, while quieter departures go up 3%. This will leave the train companies free to claim the average of each round of increases is only around 4%.
Alternatively, the rail operators may change what they class as peak and off-peak. Officially they are allowed to charge peak fares for all trains out of London until 10.30am. Most rail companies don't take it this far, and stop peak at 9am. However, the regulations give them wiggle room to class several more trains as peak journeys and start charging an arm and a leg for them.
But what do you think of the increases? How much has the cost increased for you? Let us know in the comments.