Rail fare increases have become a political football

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Commuters across the South East - who already pay some of the highest train fares in the country - are bracing themselves for average season ticket price rises of 3.5% in January, following the announcement of the July inflation figures.

That means commuters travelling from Dover Priory to London, who already pay £5,012 for a season ticket, could face an increase of £175.

Those travelling on a season ticket from Folkestone Central could see their fares go above the £5,000 mark to £5,158 - with a potential increase of £174.

And commuters in Sussex don't escape either.

The price of a season ticket from Hastings to London is likely to increase from £4,724 to £4,889.

An annual ticket for First Capital Connect trains from Brighton to London may also go up by £127 to £3,767.

Political football

Some fares could potentially go up by even more as train companies have a "flex" rule which allows them to increase some regulated fares by 2% above the average, as long as the overall average remains at the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation - 2.5% - plus 1% level.

This means some fares could go up by 5.5% in the new year.

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Maybe ministers will decide to act to try to prevent disgruntled commuters becoming disgruntled voters”

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It's the train companies which set the fares but the government could decide, as it did for January 2014, to keep the rate to RPI plus 0%.

At a time when wages are stagnant for many, the government is under increasing pressure to tackle the high cost of fares.

The issue has also become a political football.

The potential increase was immediately condemned by Labour, with the Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh saying: "David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost of-living crisis."

But the new Rail Minister Claire Perry hit back via Twitter saying: "Amazing how Labour are silent on their toxic track record of inflation busting fare increases plus underinvestment in our railways."

She went on to say: "Now Labour want to abolish the fare flex - is that the one they set at 5% that we cut to 2% to help hard pressed commuters?"

'Fair fares'

She did concede that passengers had had to contend with "inflation-busting fare rises almost every year over the last decade" but insisted the government was committed to "fair fares".

But while politicians trade blows, there has also been criticism of the potential increases from other quarters too.

The TSSA transport union is urging Conservative ministers to stop the "annual persecution of millions of rail passengers with inflation-busting increases".

And the Campaign for Better Transport points out that fares have gone up by more than 24% since 2010, while wages have only risen by 6.9% over the same period.

David Sidebottom, from watchdog Passenger Focus, says many passengers will be concerned about the fare rise and is urging the government to step in again, as it did last year, to ensure that train fares in England do not rise above the rate of inflation.

It is perhaps understandable that these rail fare increases will frustrate commuters already feeling the squeeze from high living costs.

The government says it's only fair that fares are paid for by passengers not all taxpayers.

But given the fare rises would be introduced in January - less than five months before the next general election - maybe ministers will decide to act to try to prevent disgruntled commuters becoming disgruntled voters.

Louise Stewart Article written by Louise Stewart Louise Stewart Political editor, South East

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  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    What everyone is failing to mention as well is the 140% increase in parking charges at the station which are totally unregulated and increase year on year. I would happily take the bus to the station, but there aren't any buses!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I'm planning a trip from Glasgow to Haywards Heath in a couple of months time. It is significantly cheaper getting a ticket on the sleeper train from Glasgow to London (which includes a bed) than it is to get a ticket from London to Haywards Heath! This is nonsensical!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    As with our national treasure the NHS, public transport should be available and affordable to all.

    Governments should stop spending our taxes by getting involved in other countries woos and get back to the days of building a better Britain. That means using our taxes to fund public services and nothing else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    You cant send Ships Containers down a fibre cable. The rate of increase in demand for freight traffic at least equals that for passengers. HS2 will take through trains away from the classic routes so that additional paths can be found for freight traffic. The Oxford corridor has to find paths for an additional 40 freight trains each way over the next 15 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    John Major's privatisation created a complicated mess; complication in an industry increases costs and hinders development. Renationalisation isn't an option because the tax payer gets the bill and would increase political interference.

    Re-privatisation perhaps. Radically remove the complexity and extend the not-for-dividend model which was later introduced for Network Rail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    An alternative way to look at this is to reduce the need to regularly travel. If employers supported more home or distance working, which technology can easily accomplish nowadays, then we can reduce the number of journeys needed freeing up capacity and lowering prices through reduced demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Can anyone explain why coach travel is cheaper? Coach companies must make a profit (so they can pay tax and generate funds for capital expenditure - new coaches). Coach companies pay vehicle excise duty and fuel duties and they can still undercut the railways !! Train companies pay none of these duties and they still require a government subsidy. Am I missing something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    We already pay way too much for the sub-standard service we get. If people get priced off the trains, they'll resort to cars and clog up the motorways even more. As train companies are making profit, there is no legitimate reason to raise fares apart from greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    UK train fares are a joke. A season ticket for THE WHOLE OF GERMANY costs just £3277 a year (4090 euros). What will £3277 cover in the UK? Not even London to Stevenage! (Which is £3432 BEFORE the coming fare rise).

    Passengers need to fight back. This isn't always easy, but there ARE websites which help passengers, such as the independent 'afaredeal', which offers free train fare advice by email.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The number of passenger journeys has doubled over the past 15 years.
    The forecast is that it will double again over the neat 15 years.
    People are already complaining about overcrowding on existing services.
    The industry proposes a new line - HS2 - to alleviate the main overcrowding and everyone objects.
    How do you expect to solve the problem without increasing capacity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Roundly £22 per day. How long is your return journey? Could you do it by car and how much would it cost you? Difficult to know if you have a poor deal or not without the details.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It was the previous, Labour, government that invented the inflation + 1% formula, the current lot just continued it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Each government has been intent upon reducing subsidies for public transport. Unfortunately, the penny hasn't dropped that these are services for the common good. Cheaper fares and integrated transport mean greater mobility of the workforce and can only help to boost the economy. The rest of Europe realises this, but our politicians just can't see it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Why is the UK the only country believing profit can be made from a public service like transport ? Railways should be brought back into public ownership and Labour should be making the case for it. Privatising railways has been a disaster with higher fares enriching shareholders and top managers through bonuses, and users paying more for a lesser service. Renationalising railways is essential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    once again under this elitist tory government the 'man on the street' is paying the price of the greed of the bankers & their mates. While they get bailed out, the vast majority pay through the nose, rail fares up, according to Campaign for Better Transport of 24% while salaries up just 6.9%.
    Yet more pain to bear and all for a well bellow par rail service pricing many out of work or into debt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Hi Attrix
    104 x weekend days, 20 days holiday, 7 bank holidays.
    365 - 131 = 234 days travel for £5,158. Ad basic tax on as that what you need to earn before you travel to work. That sounds pretty expensive to me! For what is pathetic service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    £197 return from Brighton to Nuneaton yesterday. Doesn't even get you a seat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Expect something from the Chancellor in the new year. There's an election, after all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Folkestone - London, 140 miles round trip.

    Season ticket £5158 for 365 days

    £14.13 a day,

    Pretty good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    How is it same price to get from London to Sunderland(£34 Grand Central) than it is to get from Margate to London....(£32.80 South Eastern)

    Really is not quick or cheap. It was cheaper and quicker to go via KLM to Scotland when they flew from Manston via Amsterdam....

    Something has to be done to reduce the ticket prices.



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