Rail commuters hit by 4.2% average fare rise


Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus, says the rail industry must keep costs down

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Rail fares for season ticket holders have increased by an average of 4.2% as the annual price hike, announced in August, comes into effect.

Overall, ticket prices have gone up by 3.9% in England, Wales and Scotland, but rises vary between train operators.

The TUC has claimed average train fares have risen nearly three times faster than average incomes since 2008.

Transport minister Norman Baker said the government had intervened to ensure fare rises were capped at about 4%.

"Regulated" rail fare increases - which include season tickets for most commuter journeys and off-peak fares on most intercity routes - are calculated by using the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation plus an additional percentage.

Examples of rail fare increases

Since 2003, London commuters have seen:

  • Average season ticket costs increase by £1,300
  • Fares increasing 20% faster than wages
  • Average costs in real terms increasing by £360

Outside of London, rail users have faced:

  • Annual fares from Ashford International in Kent to London have risen by more than £2,000
  • Fares from Sevenoaks in Kent to London have increased by nearly 90%, from £1,660 to £3,112
  • Commuters travelling between Worcester and Birmingham Moor Street will pay £1,240 for a season ticket compared with £816 in 2003, an increase of 52%

SOURCE: Campaign for Better Transport

Initially the rail fare increase was set at RPI plus 3% - a total of 6.2% - but this was reduced to RPI plus 1% by the government in October to a total of about 4.2%.

Mr Baker said: "We are engaged in the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th Century and it is only right that the passenger, as well as the taxpayer, contributes towards that.

"In the longer term we are determined to reduce the cost of running the railways so that we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises," he added.

Train companies are allowed to vary regulated fares by up to 5% above, or by any amount below, the average change in regulated fares, so that they can respond to changes in demand in particular areas.

Fares that go up by more than the average must be balanced by others that rise by less than the average, or that fall.

In developments across the UK:

  • In London, passengers on the Tube, buses, trams, DLR and commuter trains face on average a 4.2% increase, while some rail season tickets have gone up by much more
  • An off-peak day return between Bristol and St Austell in Cornwall has risen in price from £53.10 to £75.60 - a rise of 40%
  • The cost of an annual ticket from Banbury to London has risen by 5.98%, an increase of £284, according to Chiltern Railways
  • An unregulated return between Birmingham and London went up by 10%, although it only adds £2.50 to the fare
  • Some tickets will rise by as little as 2.3% while one ticket, from Shenfield, Essex, to London will be £16 cheaper, at £2,704, a 0.6% drop.

Norman Baker: "By and large, the railways perform quite well"

Meanwhile, rail fares in West Yorkshire are rising by 6.2% - more than the national average.

West Yorkshire Metro, the county's public transport provider, said the rail prices reflected the extra 3% agreed in 2006 to provide 1,700 additional seats on peak-time train services to and from Leeds.

But independent campaign group Railfuture said there was "huge frustration" among passengers in the region.

'Truly shocking'

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and Railfuture have both calculated that some rail fares have increased by 50% or more in the past 10 years.

CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph branded the rail fare increase "truly shocking".

He said: "The impact of successive governments' policies on rail fares is appalling.

"We have deliberately made getting the train to work an extravagance that many struggle to afford. The time has come not just to stop the rises but to reduce fares."

The group have launched a petition calling on government to end the above-inflation formula used for determining the annual rise and commit to reducing fares relative to inflation.

Graph showing the increase of rail fares above inflation since 2004

The TUC's Action for Rail campaign said rail passengers will be paying more for a lesser service, as rail operators begin to implement job cuts as part of plans to save £3.5bn across the rail industry by 2019.

'Running costs'

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC and chairwoman of Action for Rail, said: "At a time when real wages are falling and household budgets are being squeezed, rail travellers are being forced to endure yet another year of inflation-busting fare increases.

"As well as having to shell out record amounts of money for their tickets, passengers also face the prospect of travelling on trains with fewer staff and having less access to ticket offices. They are being asked to pay much more for less."

The chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), Michael Roberts, said it is the government that decides how much the annual average season ticket rise will be.

"Successive governments have required train companies to increase the average price of season tickets every January since 2004 by more than inflation.

"Ministers want passengers to pay a larger share of railway running costs to reduce the contribution from taxpayers while sustaining investment in better stations, new trains and faster services," he insisted.

Edward Welsh, ATOC: "Passenger satisfaction has steadily improved .... but there is more we need to do"

Labour shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said rail fare hikes had come as a "nasty new year shock" for many commuters and accused Prime Minister David Cameron of breaking a promise that rail fares would not rise by more than 1% above inflation.

She said: "The government should come clean with commuters that this is a direct result of their decision to cave in to pressure from the private train companies to let them hike ticket prices beyond the so-called cap."

Transport 'overhaul' plea

The shadow transport secretary said Labour would "strictly enforce the fare cap on every route and restore the ban on train companies imposing higher increases".

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has warned that train travel is becoming "increasingly unaffordable" for families and called for a "major overhaul to our transport system".

Chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Many are facing a stark choice, fork out for expensive train travel, own a car and cut back on essentials, or stay put and miss out on jobs and opportunities."

Map showing various train routes and the cost per mile from January 2013

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  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    After graduating I had to move 300 miles away for work. It was already cheaper to drive home, but with this years 7% hike... And every train journey I've made, the train was either delayed or cancelled. It drives me cuckoo!

    The rail hikes put off tourism though- my work colleagues/housemates wanted to visit Scotland, but when I told them how much the train ticket costs, they went abroad instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    One of the main issues that I have with all these big commodity companies is that of subsidy. Okay so you're so amazing at making 'efficiencies' then why are we giving you record subsidies? I do not want to be obliged to give money to share holders through taxation. Here's an idea, create a company with all those subsidies and run the trains ourselves, that might work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    Following this increase, my season ticket from Kent now costs a whopping 37% of my feeble graduate salary.

    No wonder this is published alongside an article about high rates of depression amongst young people. We are beginning to realise we have little chance of a secure and comfortable future...

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    819.James Rigby

    highly doubt that, you'll just end up with more people on the dole because they simply can't afford to work. Then you won't get any rebates because you'll be paying for those people to be at home.
    On top of that you'll be stuck in endless traffic jams with all the additional people on the roads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    Time to Nationalise Rail. I am sick and tired of having the ordinary person being held hostage by the government and private companies whose sole interest is to make money at the expense of doing the right thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.


    If that's the case then can I have a rebate on all the money I've paid in my Tax to subsidise the road system (which I don't use as I don't drive), schools (as I don't have children and do not plan to) and for each year I have not used the NHS. Oh wait, that would be massively short sighted and stupid of me.

  • Comment number 827.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    @820. Ppuj: OOI, how old are you? You make a lot of posts suggesting you're quite young or have very low standards.

    And every business does not need to make profit - all it /needs/ to do is remain solvent. Today's crisis is what happens when people put profit before solvency.

    Also worrying is that I don't think you quite understand how shares work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    Perhaps we need to treat the politicians in the same way that the British worker is:

    - PM and cabinet members need 25% increase for presiding over this omnishambles
    - Ordinary MPs rewarded with 33% cut for the failure

    At least MPs have a vote and can hold their leaders to account. The ordinary worker can't. All they can do is try and find a different non-existent job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    We were sold privatisation on the grounds that competition would reduce fares.
    Heard any other good ones lately?

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    Train fares are calculated by RPI, and yet all public sector workers have just had their pay/pension settlement linked to the lower CPI, please explain Dave I'm all ears, you rich two faced Tory, I better stop before moderator removes. Rail is a national neccesity. Public rail network not for profit now.PS I drive as I stay 2 mile from work, so I am impartial HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    If fares made some sort of sense there might not be so much complaining. I just tried to book a ticket online. On one day it's around £20, but the exact same journey a week later costs £40 more! I don't understand how rail companies get away with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Many EU countries have nationalised railways and it works for them. This system of rail privatisation provides a service for the upper classes, whilst benefiting rail company shareholders. Renationalise the railways to provide a service for the masses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    The trains are generally on time and good value.
    I see no problem with the operators making money. Every business needs to make profit and the small amount of profit they make is given to shareholders for the risk they have taken.
    I just wish the first class carriages did Coffee in the mornings and maybe G&T in the evenings. Plus the first class seats are too few and a bit hard for my liking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    Why is the taxpayer still subsidising the railways? Let those who use the railways pay the full cost. Everyone else can have a little tax back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    799. roygbiv86

    Let me get this right - you are blaming Labour - for not sorting out a problem in their 10 years of power that was caused by the Tory party and its policies in the 18 years before that?

    Do I take it that with each and every 'Labour government' - the clocks are re-set and the Tory numpty party receives a 'get out of jail card'?

    Please demonstrate some thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    i believe this to be a good thing.Rail prices need to go up by a considerable higher amount.Wages need to come down,along with benefits.Petrol and utility prices need to go up,as well as food and clothing.Mortgage repayments need increasing and rent.
    The unemployed and sick should be made to work for their benefits,and those in work need to work much longer hours and retirement age raised to 90

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Once again the actual users of the rail system get shafted. Every year the prices go up faster than inflation and much faster than our wages and every year the service gets worse, at the same time the directors vote themselves huge bonuses and pay rises.

    The rail service should never have been privatized, the service has only gotten worse year after year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    I commute from Peterborough to London, much of my disposable income is spent in the Peterborough area which surely boosts the economy of the area. I renewed my season ticket on Sunday at 2012 prices at a cost of £7168 - the time is coming when it simply makes no sense for me to travel by rail or to move much nearer to London. Many others like me are thinking the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Privatization of pensions dwarfs the total failure of privatization of railways.
    How rich are Maggie's cronies I wonder.


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