Anger as commuters face 3.2% rail fares rise

Rail commuters face an increase of up to 3.2% in the cost of season tickets next year.

Passenger groups, unions and politicians reacted with anger after the cap on regulated fare rises was confirmed.

There have been calls for fares to be frozen following chaos caused by the implementation of new timetables in May.

Many long-distance commuters will see the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100 in January.

Rail fares
(PA Graphics)

A 3.2% increase in season ticket prices would see annual passes from Brighton to London cost £4,846 (up £150), Gloucester to Birmingham reach £4,239 (up £131) and Liverpool to Manchester setting workers back £3,253 (up £101).

The announcement came as unions pledged to press ahead with above-inflation pay claims amid growing anger at a call by the Transport Secretary for lower wage rises.

Chris Grayling wrote to union general secretaries on Tuesday, stating he wants to "see lower levels of increase for passengers in future" by using the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figure, rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

But he suggested this can only happen if pay rises are also based on CPI.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union accused Mr Grayling of trying to cap pay rises and blame workers for high fares.

Rail tickets become more expensive every January, with the increase in around 40% of fares regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments. This includes season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and Anytime tickets around major cities.

Price rises for these tickets are capped at July's RPI figure, which was announced as 3.2% by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

The Scottish Government caps regulated off-peak fare increases at RPI minus one percentage point.

(PA Graphics)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the fares increase as "an insult to everyone who has suffered from the chaos on Britain's railways".

He went on: "The Government's shambolic mismanagement of our railways has been a national embarrassment and they must now step in to freeze fares charged on the worst performing routes.

"Labour will take back control of our railways by bringing them into public ownership so they are run in the interests of passengers, not private profit."

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Disruption caused by new timetables led to the UK Government vetoing further timetable changes expected in December, which means upgrades in areas such as the West Midlands, the west of England and South Western Railway routes have been cancelled or delayed indefinitely.

Pressure group Railfuture claimed train passengers are being treated like "second-class citizens compared to motorists".

Spokesman Bruce Williamson said: "We'll easily have the most expensive fares in Europe, yet the Government continues to freeze fuel duty for motorists. Why the double standard?"

Government now accepts what @Railfuture has said for a decade. It is wrong for fares to rise by obsolete RPI when CPI is official inflation.

But is changing to CPI an aspiration or a promise?

We've calculated that fares are 29% higher than if CPI only had been used since 2004. pic.twitter.com/Xd7Ss64LNO

-- Railfuture (@Railfuture) August 15, 2018

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "With passengers already furious at the shocking level of service on Britain's rip-off privatised railways, today's news is just another kick in the teeth that will come back to haunt both the Tory Government and the train companies alike."

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the railway, said: "Fares are underpinning a once-in-a-generation investment plan to improve the railway and politicians effectively determine that season ticket prices should change in line with other day-to-day costs to help fund this.

"While the industry is learning lessons from the recent timetable change, major improvements have been delivered this year from upgraded stations at London Bridge and Liverpool Lime Street to new trains in the South West and Scotland, and more will be delivered in the next year."

Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road said regulated fares went up by an average of 3.3% in January 2018, following the July 2017 RPI figure of 3.6%.

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