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Passengers facing 3.6% rail fare hike from next year

Passengers are set to see an unprecedented rise of 3.6% on regulated rail fares from January 2018, government statistics have today revealed – the largest hike since 2011 and significantly over this year’s 2.3% figure.

The Office for National Statistics today released its updated Retail Prices Index (RPI) figure for July 2017, which sets the rate at which TOCs can increase fares on rail services.

Consumer watchdogs have warned that commuters will be hit hardest by the change, with anytime, off-peak and season tickets in England and Wales all likely to increase.

“Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway, face fare rises next January,” David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, said. “Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score – just one-third according to our latest survey.

“So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.”

Sidebottom also questioned why the RPI was being used as the measure of inflation and not the Consumer Price Index, which is used to determine wages and pension increases.

Another influential transport body, London TravelWatch, agreed that many passengers will be angry that they will be paying more for a service that is “nowhere near good enough”. 

“Over the past year passengers on some lines we have seen performance and overcrowding deteriorate lines to an unacceptable level,” said the organisation’s chair, Stephen Locke. “Meanwhile, for many the wait for the much-promised 15-minute compensation policy continues.

“There is also a lot to be done to improve the fairness and transparency of the system. There continue to be large and confusing variations in commuter fares, especially in and around the edge of London – for example, passengers travelling from Redhill are sometimes paying more to travel into London than those travelling from Gatwick Airport Station, despite Gatwick being over five miles further out.”

General secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, also claimed today’s announcement was “grim news” for commuters who face yet another year of rail hikes.

“Overcrowded and understaffed trains are costing them more and more,” she commented. “Meanwhile it’s pay day for private rail companies, whose owners gifted themselves nearly a quarter billion in dividends last year.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for rail services to be publicly owned, saving money for passengers and taxpayers alike.”

DfT praises government investment

Despite widespread criticisms, a spokesperson for the DfT argued that the government was investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers and providing faster and better trains with more seats.

“Regulated rail fares are capped in line with inflation for next year,” they said. “In the five years to 2019, Network Rail is spending more than £40bn to maintain and improve the network. On average, 97% of every £1 of a passenger's fare goes back into the railway.”

And Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, stated: “Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.

“It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI. Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.”

Top Image: Torsten Dettlaff

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Rob   15/08/2017 at 12:00

Why is it that this monopolistic beast is allowed to break all the rules of the competition authority - for many there is no alternative to commuting by train and the terrible experience that many people suffer. Whilst I know this is not breaking any rules the rules are clearly wrong and do not act in the public interest - private companies continue to be rewarded for poor service and continue the blame game between themselves , Network Rail and the Unions . Part of the franchising bids should be to deal with these issues with severe penalties ( accessible for travellers through a simple recompense system) imposed for non performance regardless of who creates it - its called business risk !!! Instead we see constant reward to companies who clearly do not care about their "customers" no respond to their complaints as effectively they have a monopoly !

100Andthirty   15/08/2017 at 12:32

Rob - the monopolistic beast is the government as it is they that will allow the fares they regulate to rise, not the train operators.

Idris   15/08/2017 at 12:43

“Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway" Seems fair to me. The majority of cost for me driving to work is carried by me as the passenger. I'm still not seeing why I should fund folk traveling to work by train?

Richard Putley   15/08/2017 at 16:46

Idris - if all the people who use rail had to use the roads, the country would grind to a halt! There just wouldn't be room for all the cars on the roads! That's why the government wants to encourage rail use. I think you'll find this is the same in all Western Countries

Taken Back Control   15/08/2017 at 17:57

So train fares are going up by the highest amount for 6 years because the inflation rate is the driver. And inflation has gone up because the pound is weak. And the pound is weak because of Brexit. Pay inflation is way below cost inflation so gradually everyone is getting poorer. But who cares? We have taken back control.

James Palma   15/08/2017 at 19:53

The cost of transport should be paid by everyone. My getting on a train here in London sees me contribute to employment in and around London. When I get to my destination I contribute to employment at that location. While roads contribute less to employment the user still has an input to the overall economy.

Tothehills   16/08/2017 at 09:35

Idris: Motoring is subsidized possible more so that the trains; it's just that you do not see it as a lot of the cost are covered by general taxation. So if you have an accident and someone is seriously injured the NHS picks up the cost and does not sue your insurer, likewise the policing of the roads and the cost of originally building and maintaining the roads is all through general taxation. So much is hidden from you and that is before we get into environmental costs and secondary deaths and illnesses.

J, Leicester   16/08/2017 at 10:20

Let's face it - the only reason fares continue to rise above inflation is in a desperate attempt to claw back some of the massive losses incurred by Network Rail's constant stream of over-schedule, over-budget works. It's face-saving from the DfT, because they've failed to keep infrastructure costs under control. If this is what it costs us to keep the current network improvements on-track (excuse the pun), god forbid what will happen once the HS2 ball gets rolling and inevitably hits delays and contract overspends.

Jerry Alderson   16/08/2017 at 20:44

Can the DfT really claim that "the government was investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers and providing faster and better trains" just after axing much of the electrification programme that was intended to "modernise" the railway, "improve services for passengers" and provide "faster and better trains"? By the way, it isn't only Transport Focus that is calling for CPI rather than RPI to be used as a basis for fare increases. Railfuture has been doing so for a decade.

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