Rail fares up by average 6.2% in new year

Rail passengers buying tickets at Clapham Junction station in London Season ticket holders could be paying as much as 10.8% more

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Rail travellers are facing an average rail fare rise of 6.2% in the new year, according to industry figures.

Regulated fares, which include season tickets, will go up by an average of 5.8% from January. Some of these fares could rise by as much as 10.8%.

Some unregulated fares, typically short distance off-peak ones, will rise by more than the 6.2% overall average, but the industry is not giving a figure.

There is no price cap on these so rail firms could raise them by much more.

BBC transport correspondent Richard Scott said: "Train companies are bound by competition. If they think they can increase it by 10% then they will but they don't want to drive people off the railways."

'Tough times'

Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said the rise was "simply outrageous" and the Campaign for Better Transport warned the rises would price people off trains.

Passenger groups expressed disappointment that the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) had not provided figures for individual train companies.

Analysis

The possible 10.8% increase in season ticket costs will not be welcomed by commuters. It's a formula that's set by government though, not train companies. And for every fare which rises by 5% more than the 5.8% average, another has to rise by 5% less (so 0.8% in this case). In other words the fare rises have to balance to make the 5.8% average.

It's also weighted so train companies can't increase fares on busy routes and cut them on quiet ones.

The increases are part of the plan to shift more of the burden of railway costs to the fare payer. Currently costs are shared by taxpayer and fare payer - the long-term objective is for fare payers to meet 75% of the cost.

But for all the pain, inflation-busting rises do help to safeguard railway investment. Without them, the government would likely decide it couldn't afford capacity increases. We'll find out how it's planning to tackle overcrowding on Thursday.

But Atoc, which supplied the figures, said the above-inflation rises were a response to recent government policy changes, which meant passengers having to pay more towards railway investment.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of Atoc, said: "We know times are tough for many people but next year's fare increases will ensure that Britain can continue investing in its railways.

"Even with these fare increases, the money passengers spend on fares covers only half the cost of running the railways - taxpayers make up the difference.

"The government is sticking with the previous administration's policy to cut the taxpayers' contribution to the overall cost of running the railways.

"Money invested through fares has helped to bring about the record levels of customer satisfaction and punctuality on the railways today."

Campaign for Better Transport campaigner Alexandra Woodsworth said the rises made a mockery of the government's commitment to fair pricing for rail travel.

"Increasing rail fares is not smart, not fair and not green. It's high time that the government started keeping some of its promises," she said.

Mr Doherty said: "It is simply outrageous that hard-pressed commuters are being forced to pay fare hikes of up to 10% when they are themselves facing pay freezes and job cuts.

Where does your money go?

  • 48p in every £1 goes to Network Rail, which charges operators to access tracks and other infrastructure costs
  • 17p on staff
  • 17p on miscellaneous costs including train maintenance, administration, contractors
  • 11p on leasing trains
  • 4p on fuel/energy
  • 3p to train company profit

"Passengers will regard that as a sick joke seeing as we have the most expensive and overcrowded railway in Europe."

Ashwin Kumar, director of Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers deserve to know how much of the burden they will have to bear in January."

The group said by lumping together regulated and unregulated fares, Atoc was potentially concealing an average rise of nearly 7% in unregulated fares.

Regulated fares are tied to an annual price cap formula meaning fares can increase each January only by the previous July's RPI inflation rate plus 1%. This means a 5.8% average rise for 2011.

However, companies are able to put up some fares by more than 5% as long as other fares decrease at the same rate.

In January 2012, passengers will have to dig even deeper into their pockets when the annual price rise formula changes to RPI plus 3% across the network.

Our correspondent said rail travel dipped during the recession but, as the economy recovered, passenger journeys rose 10% over the past year. Demand, he said, was expected to double over the coming decade.

On Thursday, the government is expected to make an announcement about long-term rail projects.

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