Rail companies' power to raise fares in England to be curbed

Rail tickets held out in front of ticket machine Some rail fares have been allowed to rise at 5% above inflation

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The rail industry's power to increase fares in England is to be curbed as part of a government drive to overhaul the rail fare system.

Until now, some regulated fares could potentially have gone up by 9.1% next January.

They will now be capped at 6.1%.

But campaigners say it is not enough, and point out that commuters will still have to pay an above- inflation increase next year.

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

They will go up in 2014 by an average of 4.1%, a number calculated using an average of inflation - as measured by the retail prices index (RPI) for July - plus 1%.


The reality is, this change won't benefit that many people, not compared to the numbers that commute on our trains every day.

The Department for Transport hasn't been able to put a figure on it, but I have been told by someone inside one of the train companies that it won't help the vast majority of people who buy season tickets next year.

Don't get me wrong. For those that do benefit there's a significant saving, potentially £30-40 a month. I could use that - frankly, couldn't we all?

But it's not as if fares will go down. Commuters' fares will still go up next January by more than inflation - and that will be for the eleventh year in a row.

Train companies can add up to 5% on top of the average rise, although fares that go up by more than the average must be balanced by others that rise by less or fall.

The government plans to limit that extra increase to 2% in the future. But the provision for the average regulated ticket price to go up by 1% more than inflation remains.

'Taking action'

The move is part of the government's Fares and Ticketing review being published by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr McLoughlin told the BBC he thought rail users would get "quite a lot of benefit" from the cap.

He said: "Commuters will benefit from knowing there is a strict limit on the amount rail companies can put up the cost. People had been seeing 10% rises."

Those commuters who wanted to see more capacity on trains welcomed the government's investment into stations such as London Bridge, he said.

Mr McLoughlin added: "If we didn't take action, people would complain that we are not taking action. We are taking action, we are investing in the railways, we are trying to keep the price down as much as we can."

He said he was "always looking" at how to reduce the pressure on the passenger.

Mix and match

The government will also detail a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis, not as returns.

It says this could allow passengers to more easily "mix and match" different ticket types when planning a return journey.

Other plans to be revealed by the Transport Secretary include:

  • 'touch in, touch out' season tickets that could benefit part-time workers
  • a code of conduct for train companies designed to make it easier for passengers to choose the best ticket for their journey
  • strengthening of rules on how train companies alter opening times at station ticket offices.

Mary Creagh, the shadow transport secretary, said the new cap on fares would be "cold comfort for commuters".

"It has taken 18 months, delivers fare increases of up to 6% and is too little too late," she said.

"This announcement doesn't go as far as Labour's plans which would prevent train companies from increasing fares beyond one per cent above inflation."

Graph showing the increase of rail fares above inflation since 2004

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  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    328 - The East Coast franchise is in state hands. It makes the taxpayer a lot of money and returns £200m to the Treasury every year. Why not keep it there?

    34 "Can't recall anyone complaining about the huge windfall" - utter UTTER rubbish. This was an incredibly contentious privatisation which was widely predicted to be a catastrophe. Its been worse. Major (a very rich man now) should be ashamed

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Commuters choose to do it.I worked in London most of my life, but chose to live in a grotty maisonette in cycling distance, for all that time.Other workmates chose to commute, and were poor, relatively, so they whined, on the same pay.Stop whinging move, pay nothing to get to work.You will be better off for it.Just needs you to change behaviours and expectations. No tax deduct ability is deserved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Nationalise the Critical National Infrastructure,...... It should be in the hands of the people of THIS country not money grabbing (often foreign) hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.


    If you check up on Royal Mail, 28/101/13 they are actually decreasing prices, large 2nd class recorded £6.30 parcels are becoming £3.70.
    RM completely messed up in April trying to be too clever with sizing/prices, I & thousands moved to other couriers.

    WHY IS BBC KEEPING THIS SECRET & NOT REPORTING ON IT, & not mentioned in RM sell off

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Regular rail passengers are a tiny minority of the population (and, being commuters, probably far better off than most people) and one of a myriad of narrow-interest groups pleading their own 'special' case. They 'forget' that the cost of many goods and services has gone up and the rest of us, especially those of us with limited access to 'their' rail network are not really that bothered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Lazy BBC don't bother reporting what is happening in the rest of the UK I had to go to sky to find the answer. Poor show BBC.I don't know why English voters still vote the three incompetent parties. SNP should stand for election south of the border capped rail fairs, no tuition fees no privatisation of NHS, to prescription charges and no fireman strikes, "don't you wish you were scots like me".

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    7 years ago I moved to Chelmsford. Monthly return was £246. I now pay £430 a month. Wages rise generally around the rate of inflation (if you're lucky) so how the trains can just keep increasing the price over and above this is just not sustainable. If tickets had risen within the inflation bracket I'd be paying less than £300 a year which is just about managable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Another gimmick by the Cons leading up to the election in order to grab more votes.Just shows you how cynical the Cons really are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    "In England". What about the rest of the UK?

    Incidentally, an off peak return train journey from North Wales to London (and back) costs about £84. A friend of mine recently flew from Amsterdam to Heathrow and back for less than £60.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Can't recall anyone complaining about the huge windfall, which were used to shore up government finances (rather than making cuts or increasing taxes) when the railways were sold off. Of course, the irony is now the taxpayer contributes more to railways than they ever did when in public ownership, when the profitable services subsidised the unprofitable ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    @196 - "You'd think firms would move out, I don't know why they don't."

    They do. I work in Croydon, which was, up until recently, European Head Office for Nestle. They have now moved to Crawley and the building is being turned into apartments - a 3 min walk from East Croydon station, a mainline serving the south coast to central London and beyond. But still they moved out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    If I have to go down to London with work for a day it will cost £99 for a 1 hour journey plus £9 to have the privaledge of parking my car at the station. Often the trains are full and you find yourself standing inbetween the carridges near the toilets. Yet I went to Italy and a return 2 hour journey from Milan cost €70 for a family. The cost is disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    Sorry am I missing something? What are you saying the solution is?
    I am not sure what you mean by the East Coast line. Obviously I know what that is but not how it is the solution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    What a wonderful government we have.
    They have decided to cut the gross profiteering of the Privatised Rail Companies by reducing fare increases from 9% max to 6% max.
    Oh dear that's the bosses' 6 figure bonuses reduced then or more likely an increased taxpayer subsidy.
    Meanwhile NHS workers may get no pay rise next year while paying 6% more to commute and 10% more for fuel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    "The idiots in charge make the same mistake over and over again and so do the voters."

    The people who make all the money out of these privatisations keep coming back for more and more. They've discovered they can do so with more or less complete impunity however disastrous, complex and expensive each one is.

    Royal Mail was deliberately underpriced and is going to make Tory City donors a FORTUNE

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    317. Onan the Barbarian - Britain is a rare thought that comes into the minds of most Europeans. Britain is a great nation and could do so much better than what it does. The issue is that the Government in Britain does not represent the people. I really would love to see the day that the British working class took back control of their country from the millionaires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    330.whambam - ".......through HB, rail companies through subsidy, "green energy" through subsidies......."

    Just to expand - ALL energy companies are subsidised by the tax payer, not just the green energy ones. In fact the fossil fuel & nuclear power generators get BIGGER subsidies than green energy does.....


  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Sorry I dont get this, why are the rules of supply and demand not allowed to hold true. More people use the railways so you increase cost to reduce demand then may be everyone will get a seats. Its exactly what Ed Millliband wants todo with the Electric an Gas prices, but ts not about economics anymore is it its about winning votes! The politicians think we are fools andi guess most of us are!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    322.johnboy99 / 323.FauxGeordie
    Never a truer word said. I'm a capitalist but completely and utterly disagree with Royal Mail/Railways and with hindsight the privatisations of the utilities. The idiots in charge make the same mistake over and over again and so do the voters. I will vote next time but never the main 3 parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Regardless of the headline figure, this will almost certainly be rigged to allow the rail companies to hike up the fares on the high volume routes and times by trading off those that are less well used. In essence, commuters will continue as captive consumers for above inflation and above earning increase changes despite the government spin on the issue.


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