Rail fares will rise by 6.2% in January

 

Commuters tell tales of rail fare woe

Some rail fares in England will rise by 6.2% in January - about double the rate of inflation - although other price rises may be higher.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation in July - which stood at 3.2% - is used to calculate the rises.

Some English fares will rise by RPI plus 3%, while in Scotland they will go up by RPI plus 1%. Wales has yet to set a figure for its increase.

The extra money is helping to fund huge investment across the network.

There are no fare increases currently planned in Northern Ireland, where fares are not linked to RPI, after a 3% rise in April.

Chance of higher rises

The decision to have different formulas for fare rises is a political one. In Scotland, 75% of the cost of the railways comes from a government subsidy - higher than in England.

The figures for planned rises in England and Scotland are an average across regulated tickets, which make up half of all fares. These regulated fares include season tickets and off-peak intercity journeys. In Scotland, this does not include the busy shuttle service between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Start Quote

There is only so much you can squeeze passengers”

End Quote Mike Hewitson Passenger Focus

Some passengers could see their journey prices rising by more than the average, as train companies are allowed to increase them by up to five percentage points more, as long as they cut ticket prices elsewhere.

Passengers will not be told yet how prices will change on their specific route. The latest figure sets the template for this rise.

Those who travel across a border, such as from Scotland to England, will be subject to the higher English fare rises.

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]."

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott says passengers and taxpayers used to split the cost of running the railways, with both sides paying about half each, but successive ministers have cut the amount of government funding and that has resulted in regular fare rises.

Rail fares graphic

The latest rise means fares in England will have gone up by more than inflation for 10 successive years, resulting in some of the most expensive train journeys in Europe although some tickets booked well in advance can be cheap, our correspondent adds.

'You have to stand'

Passengers have reacted with disappointment.

One passenger's story

Craig Anderson-Jones, from Salisbury, says: "I earn an average wage. Not great, but not minimal, yet I pay 8.5% of my pre-tax wage on train travel alone. That is £1,784 a year.

"Put on top of that the cost of childcare - nearly £600 per month - and my bills are nearly £1,600 per month. To some, not much - to me, a lot. I can't even afford to get on the property ladder, so I have to rent.

"I don't actually think I could afford to get to work if this keeps going on

"Ultimately I will be forced to move to a closer location. The cost of driving to work and parking all day makes it even more expensive to get to work.

"Personally, I think people who do travel distances to work should be able to claim it back or get tax breaks if they can prove the expenditure."

One disgruntled passenger told the BBC: "I don't think it's good value for money at all. Every train I get in the morning, you either have to stand up or you can't get in."

Stephen Joseph, from passengers' group the Campaign for Better Transport, said rail fares could rise three times faster than salaries if the government sticks to its policy.

"With the economy flatlining, this is untenable. The government knows they can't continue to hit commuters - that's why they've postponed the fuel duty increase," he said, as activists from the group protested against the anticipated increases at London's Waterloo station.

"Now they need to give the same help to rail users."

The group said commuters across the country routinely spend between 5% and 10% of their salary getting to work. In some towns in south-east England, it said they spent up to 15%.

'Necessary rise'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Commuters could see the price of their season ticket going up three times faster than their pay rise.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers: Fare increases will "make life better for passengers"

"In return for these whopping fare increases, rail travellers can expect cutbacks to services and more unmanned stations, creating safety risks for those travelling at unsociable hours."

But Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, 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."

Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said that the fare increases were necessary in the short-term to achieve the government's long-term goal of bringing down the cost of running railways.

"In the longer term we are determined to get rid of these above-inflation fare rises all together," she said.

"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," she added.

Shadow Treasury minister Rachel Reeves said: "These fare rises are unacceptable at a time when families are already struggling to make ends meet and wages are stagnant at best."

The official inflation figures from the Official for National Statistics show that the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation rose from 2.4% in June to 2.6% in July. The rise in the rate of CPI follows three months of falls. RPI rose to 3.2% from 2.8% in June.

 

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  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 892.

    Fares are already at an unjustifiably high level. A first class return from Bristol to London is already £300, pre-increase and plus parking costs. You can fly to Florida for not much more. This is plainly insane, whichever way you look at it. It's not surprising though, when you have monopolistic train companies and an impotent regulator.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 882.

    Rail fares have been going up by shocking amounts ever since the railways were privatised. I was in a situation where I could no longer afford to go to work. It was costing me money. I was made redundant and very glad of it. Largely because of high rail fares. Living on benefits is no paradise, but better than the deal I had at work.

    Reliability was worse than in the days of British Rail, too.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 874.

    There's been no improvement to services since the last increase. Trains are regularly delayed, filthy and packed full of passengers during rush hour, but there is just no other way to get to London from Kent. I pay over £4.5k a year, but won’t get a pay rise because the rail fares increase. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to live and any encouragement to use public transport is backfiring.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 673.

    18 months ago I decided it was cheaper to get the train rather than drive to work. In fact, the difference wasn't much after taking parking into account, but using the train is more environment friendly.

    After the 10% increase last year, and another possible 6-11% to come, I think I'll have to go back to the car. But isn't that exactly the opposite of what the government want us to do??

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 618.

    I work in the NHS as a secretary. I get paid 17,775 before tax. I commute to Leicester from Sheffield everyday. This costs 352.90 each month (which adds up to around 4 grand a year) which is a massive chunk of my income. With the economy the way it is, these fare increases are ridiculous. It is going to force people like me onto the dole which will increase the countries welfare bill.

 

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