'Eye-watering' rail fare hike criticised as passengers return from festive break

The latest annual rise in train fares was met with frustration by passenger groups and rail campaigners.

They claim the 3.4% average increase is unfair because it has been introduced amid a freeze on fuel duty and is outpacing earnings.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: "As many passengers return from their festive break, rail fare rises will bite as wages continue to stagnate.

Rail fares: how your pound breaks down.
(PA Graphics)

"Satisfaction with value for money varies widely. Annual season ticket commuters in London and the South East are among the least content."

He added that welcome investment is being made in the railways but warned that "passengers need to be able to rely on the trains today".

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "It is simply not right that millions of rail passengers face eye-watering fare hikes today after suffering 12 months of delays, cancellations and disruption.

"Commuters have been hit with fare increases of around 5.5% in the last two years while their cost of living also continues to rise.

"It's time for the Government and private rail companies to step up and give the passengers the service they deserve at a price they deserve."

Mr Khan has pledged to freeze all bus and tram fares and single pay-as-you-go fares on Tube services until 2020.

Average rise in rail fares in Great Britain.
(PA Graphics)

Bruce Williamson, spokesman for campaign group Railfuture, said: "Fuel duty for motorists has been frozen for seven years now, but not rail fares, which have risen by more than 30% in that same period.

"The Government is showing undeniable bias against the rail traveller and driving people on to our ever more congested and polluted roads."

Alex Hayman, director of public markets at consumer group Which?, said: "For passengers to genuinely feel they are getting value for money, they must be able to find the best ticket for their journey, cheaper fares must not be hidden and compensation must be paid where it is owed."

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, which manages Britain's rail infrastructure, said: "We all share the objective of wanting to keep fares as low as possible.

"I'm not responsible for setting fares. My job is to make sure that the money we are given is spent as efficiently as possible and on the best possible projects."

Good morning, rise and shine ?.

Today sees the final section of the huge, modern new concourse and the final five platforms open at London Bridge railway station since its redevelopment.?

? https://t.co/TWw7SX3qGW#RailwayUpgradePlan#investingtoimprove@TLProgrammepic.twitter.com/h8XMuwWvkJ

-- Network Rail (@networkrail) January 2, 2018

Speaking at the opening of the final section of London Bridge station's new concourse, Mr Carne added: "This is a shining example of British engineering at its best and it's something that I think the country should be very proud of."

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: "Passengers are actually paying more and more for less and less. More fare increases and more profit for less train guards and staff and less reliable services.

"Our members are protesting today to say it is time to cut our fares not our staff and for a publicly-owned railway where every penny of passenger revenue goes to improving services."

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