Rail fares 'to rise by 4.1%' in England as unions protest

 
Campaigners with a 'bring back British Rail banner' at King's Cross station Campaigners protested at stations across England

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Commuters in England face an average 4.1% rise in regulated rail fares - including season tickets - next year.

Ministers say the rises will pay for investment in the rail network.

Trade unions organised protests at stations around the country and called for the rail network to be returned to public ownership.

Labour said those travelling on busy lines could be "clobbered" with rises of up to 9.1% as train companies add extra increases to some tickets.

Regulated fares are those the government controls, and include season tickets, "anytime" single tickets around major cities, and off-peak inter-city return tickets.

They will go up by an average of inflation - as measured by the retail prices index (RPI) for July - plus 1%.

The RPI fell from 3.3% to 3.1% in July, according to official statistics.

Rail fare increases compared to inflation

Analysis

When will the inflation-busting rises end?

Well, not for at least two years. The government's already committed to RPI+1% rises in 2014 and 2015.

Then we'll obviously have a general election and although all of the three biggest political parties say they want to bring an end to big rises as soon as possible, none of them is able to give a timescale.

What we do know is that the government only wants to pay for 25% of railway running costs. It currently pays for about 32%, so tickets will keep going up until they hit that target.

Fares have been outstripping inflation for a decade. They've left wages in their wake too. And we've had a recession. Yet our trains are carrying record-breaking numbers of passengers, and their popularity keeps increasing.

So the sad reality for commuters is that fare rises aren't yet putting people off going by train.

Train companies can vary regulated fares by up to 5% above the average 4.1% rise, but fares that go up by more than the average must be balanced by others that rise by less or fall.

David Sidebottom, from watchdog Passenger Focus, said travellers would "shrug wearily" at the news of another rise, adding: "It is crucial... more trains arrive on time, investment in future improvements continues and the basic promises the industry make are delivered."

Some campaigners say rail tickets are becoming increasingly unaffordable as price rises outstrip wages.

"It's really starting to eat into people's incomes," Richard Hebditch, from the Campaign for Better Transport said.

Meanwhile, the TUC organised demonstrations at almost 50 stations around the country.

General secretary Frances O'Grady said passengers were "lining the pockets of the shareholders of private rail companies" and the government should look at renationalising the railways.

Train operating companies in Scotland have their prices capped at the rate of inflation, while there is no rise planned in Northern Ireland and the Welsh government has yet to decide.

'Hugely expensive'

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said the rises were vital to maintain and upgrade the network.

Where does your fare go?

Rail ticket machines

On average, for every £1 spent on a train ticket:

Track and station maintenance 48p

Staffing 17p

Train companies' running costs 17p

Leasing rolling stock 11p

Train fuel 4p

Profit for the train companies 3p

Source: ATOC

"Someone has to pay for that investment," he told BBC Breakfast.

Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said: "Running the railways is a hugely expensive business. The taxpayer overall is still putting in huge amounts of money... and I'm afraid the passenger also has to make his contribution."

He said there had been a "vast growth" in passenger numbers, adding: "What we're doing is driving up the levels of investment so people get more reliable train services and better facilities as well."

But shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said Labour would stop train companies "fiddling the cap" and adding 5% on popular routes.

"It gives a big advantage to train companies to maximise their revenues whilst leaving commuters who have no other realistic choice having to face this cost of living crisis that just keeps getting worse and worse and worse."

One commuter, Jennifer Burke, told the BBC: "You're sitting with your salary which hasn't changed for a couple of years now... Your train journey goes up and sometimes the quality's just getting less and less."

Year Rise in average weekly earnings Rise in regulated rail fares

Source: TUC

2008

3.8%

6.1%

2009

2.3%

7.6%

2010

1.1%

0.7%

2011

2.6%

6.0%

2012

1.3%

6.2%

2013

1.2%

3.9%

2014 (predicted)

2.4%

4.3%

Increase 2008-14

15.6%

40.2%

 

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  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 1319.

    I'm reading this in Montpellier. My wife & I came here & will go home by train. We booked in advance - a bargain if you can plan ahead. We've travelled around by train while here. Everything is clean & it works.
    We in the UK need public investment in more & better rolling stock, more & better track & better stations. The rail network must serve the public not shareholder interests.

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 1101.

    I would favour rail fares being unsubsidised totally, but I think the cost of travelling to work for employees should be a tax-deductible expense, not just for the self-employed.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 1099.

    well i dont use rail, haven't done for long time - cant afford it . just saw cost of ticket to Dorking from Clapham Junction. £8.10 single. Too much for me! cheaper to use my motor bike. or if really tight and have the time use my push bike.I remember my dad telling me he went to night school in Norwich from Lowestoft ( 20 miles ) by bike. seems like time for me also

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 833.

    I don't get it - Inflation causes train fares to go up and at the same time cause wages and salaries to freeze and go down. Does that even make any sense?

    Ironically, we are all being advised to use public transport more, what is the incentive if train journey to london is actually more than twice expensive than using my car?

    Ditch the train tickets folks and get back on the road

  • rate this
    +46

    Comment number 538.

    I'd like to see fares (at fair prices, too) collected on the train itself, like the buses. As things are now, we pay before we travel so they can turn up when they like or not at all. If train companies' revenues were collected on the train, they'd have an incentive to turn up on time ALL the time.

 

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