Rail passengers face potential 4.8% rise in fares

Britain’s train passengers could be hit by the largest fares rise in a decade.

Increases are usually linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was confirmed as 3.8% for July 2021 by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

No announcement has been made on what will happen to fares next year, but ticket prices in England and Wales rose by an average of around 2.6% in March, representing RPI for July 2020 plus one percentage point.

The Scottish Government imposed smaller rises of 1.6% and 0.6% for peak and off-peak travel respectively.

A repeat of the policy in England and Wales next year would see fares rise by an average of 4.8%, which would be the largest increase since 2012.

That would lead to hikes in the cost of annual season tickets such as:

– Brighton to London (any route): Up £245 to £5,353

– Liverpool to Manchester (any route): Up £132 to £2,892

– Neath to Cardiff: Up £89 to £1,941

Average increase in rail fares
(PA Graphics)

Public transport fares in London are set to be hiked by 4.8% in January, under the terms of the UK Government’s bailout of Transport for London which stated that RPI plus one percentage point must be used.

Rises in fares for mainline rail services across Britain are controlled by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments.

A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Transport said: “No decision has been made on national rail fares.

“The Government is considering a variety of options and we will announce our decision in due course.”

Rail fares are usually increased every January, but the coronavirus pandemic meant this year’s increase was delayed until March 1.

Analysis by the Labour Party indicated that next year average fares could rise to 50% more than they were in 2010.

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Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “Rail travel has long been unaffordable for many people, thanks to the Conservatives prioritising the profits of private companies over passengers.

“This would be yet another eye-watering hike hot on the heels of the failure of the Government’s so-called money-saving flexi ticket scheme.”

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of pressure group Campaign for Better Transport, called for fares to be frozen to reduce carbon emissions and encourage commuters to return to towns and cities.

He said: “In the face of a climate emergency, the Government should be doing everything it can to encourage people to choose low-carbon public transport by making it the cheapest option, not hiking rail fares.”

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said any decision on fares “should be viewed against the decade-long freeze in fuel duty and Government proposals to cut air passenger duty for domestic flights”.

Emma Gibson, director of passenger watchdog London TravelWatch, warned that fares in the capital “need to be affordable if people are to be tempted back to public transport”.

She added: “Many Londoners have already suffered financially as a result of the pandemic, so a 4.8% fares increase is the last thing they will want to see.”

Fares for rail services in Northern Ireland are set by state-owned operator Translink, which does not use RPI.