Key questions answered on rail fares rise

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Rail fare rises are always a controversial issue.

The PA news agency answers 10 key questions about what is happening this year:

Rail ticket stock
Regulated fare rises have been capped at inflation since 2014 (Ben Birchall/PA)

– How big is the fare rise?

Fares will go up by around 2.6% in England and Wales.

Scotland is introducing a 1.6% increase in the cost of peak travel, with off-peak journeys up 0.6%.

– What normally determines the figure?

In the past seven years, rises in England’s regulated fares such as season tickets have been linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which in 2020 was 1.6%.

– What’s changed?

The UK Government is using RPI +1%.

– Why?

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris says the Government wants to make sure taxpayers are “not overburdened”, as they are already covering franchises’ losses to keep services running despite the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus crisis.

– What about unregulated fares?

Whereas rises in regulated fares are set by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, operators are free to determine unregulated fares including Advance tickets.

But unregulated fare rises this year closely to match regulated fares due to the Government taking on operators’ financial liabilities.

– What else is different to normal?

Fares usually become more expensive on the first working day of every year.

The upheaval caused by the virus crisis meant a delay in the 2021 rise until Monday.

– How much more expensive has train travel become in recent years?

Office of Rail and Road figures show that between January 2004 and January 2020, average fares increased in real terms by 15%.

– Where does the money go?

The Rail Delivery Group says 98p of every £1 spent on train fares goes towards running and maintaining services.

– Is there any way of avoiding the fare rise?

Savvy commuters can renew their season tickets in the days before the annual increase.

– Any other tips on limiting the cost of train travel?

Passengers can save money by getting a railcard, travelling off-peak and booking in advance – although these options are not available for many journeys, particularly those made by commuters.