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Government announces 6.2% fare increases for 2013

Regulated rail fares rises are set to rise by 6.2% next year, the Government has announced. 

Passengers, unions and campaign groups are holding a national day of action against the proposed increases, which could see some commuter fares rise by over 11%, as operators have flexibility in how they raise fares. 

RPI was 3.2% in July, higher than the 2.7% previously expected. Fares will rise by inflation plus 3% in England, and inflation plus 1% in Scotland. 

Train operators can then increase fares by a further 5%, as long as they cut other ticket prices to give an average rise of 6.2%. 

A similar rise planned for January 2012 was eventually modified to one percentage point above inflation in the 2011 autumn statement. 

Transport secretary Justine Greening had suggested there was some room for maneuver in this rise too. 

Ahead of the announcement, she said: “I am keen to see what we can do to keep fares down to something affordable. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so I’ll make sure I’ll ask.” 

Rail minister Theresa Villiers said: “In the longer term we are determined to get rid of these above-inflation fare rises all together. But in the meantime I'm afraid these fare rises are going to be necessary in order to help us deliver a rail investment programme at a time when the deficit means public spending needs to be constrained.” 

Mike Hewitson, of watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “This is another inflation-busting increase. There is only so much you can squeeze passengers. The government needs to think again about the plus 3% [formula].” 

Demonstrations are being held at London Waterloo and 40 other stations around the country today, organised by rail unions and others, to oppose the changes. 

The Campaign for Better Transport says the increases will mean fares would rise faster than salaries.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC, said: “It has been government policy during the past eight years for passengers to pay a larger share of the cost of operating the railways and to focus taxpayers’ money on investing in longer term improvements to the network. Any flexibility train companies have within the rules is to maximise revenue for the Government.” 

There had earlier been suggestions that the train companies were planning to publicly oppose the rises, to emphasise the Government’s role in the decision. 

Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s deputy general secretary, commented: “These fare rises will add even more pressure to passengers feeling a massive squeeze on their incomes. At the same time the Government is asking the train operators to make cuts to staff on trains and stations and in ticket offices. Passengers are being asked to pay more to get less. We want cuts to rail fares, not rail staff.” 

The RMT’s Bob Crow called the idea that the money would be reinvested in the railways a “sick joke”, and TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes added: “Justine Greening’s cynical predecessor Philip Hammond famously said that rail is now a rich man’s toy. She seems determined to turn that quote into firm reality during her time at the DfT.” 

Julian Huppert MP, co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, said his party wants fares brought down in real terms, and was negotiating within the Coalition to try to achieve this. He said: “Family budgets are very tight, people need to be able to find work and get to interviews, and nobody should be punished for using public transport.”

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