'Chill wind' for passengers as rail fares to rise by 3.4% in January

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Rail passengers will be hit by the largest fares hike in five years next month.

Average ticket prices across Britain will go up by 3.4% on January 2, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

It is the sharpest rise since 2013, when fares increased by 3.9%.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus compared the news to "a chill wind" blowing down platforms as many passengers' incomes are stagnating or falling.

Chief executive 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%) failed to meet the rail industry's punctuality target in the past 12 months.

That means they arrived at terminating stations more than five minutes late for commuter services or 10 minutes late for long-distance journeys.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union described the fares announcement as "another kick in the teeth" for passengers.

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."

Fewer than half (47%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to Transport Focus.

The Government uses the previous July's Retail Prices Index measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares, which was 3.6%.

These are around half of all tickets and include season tickets on most commuter routes and some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys.

Train operating companies set the prices of other tickets but are bound by competition rules.