Rail fares to rise by 2.8% in January

The latest increase will add more than £100 to many annual season tickets

Rail fares will rise by 2.8% in January, it has been confirmed, prompting campaigners to demand a fairer formula for increases.

The latest rise, set by the July retail price index figure published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday morning, will add more than £100 to many annual season tickets, and comes amid warnings that passengers were being priced off the railway.

Labour said the average commuter would now be paying more than £3,000 for their season ticket, 40% more than in 2010.

The overall cost of train travel has gone up by 46% since 2009, while wages have only grown by 23%, according to TUC analysis of ONS figures.

Campaigners called for an overhaul of fares policy, because the more commonly used measure of inflation, the consumer prices index (CPI), was only 2.1%. The independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said a “fairer, clearer fares formula based on CPI, rather than the discredited RPI” was needed.

David Sidebottom, the watchdog’s director, said: “After a year of more stable, but still patchy, rail performance many rail passengers will be mystified that rail fares should be going up at all, let alone by 2.8% next January.”

The national passenger survey showed that fewer than a third of rail commuters were satisfied with the value for money of their ticket, he said.

Darren Shirley, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Passengers already pay thousands of pounds to endure overcrowding, delays and cancellations. It’s time to stop the rhetoric on fare increases. The government should commit to January’s fares rise being linked to CPI.” The previous transport secretary, Chris Grayling, had discussed such a move.

Labour said passengers were “paying more for less” and promised to take the railway back into state ownership as franchises expired. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “The government has sat back and allowed private train companies to cash in while people’s pay has been held back. Continuous fare rises undermine urgent action to tackle the climate emergency by pricing people off the railways.”

The government defended the planned increase as necessary for future investment. Chris Heaton-Harris, the rail minister, said it was tempting to suggest that fares should be frozen, but added: “If we stop investing in our railway then we will never see it improved.”

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents private train operators and Network Rail, said 98p in every £1 taken in fares was put back into running the railway. Robert Nisbet, an RDG director, said the rise meant the government was “ensuring that money from fares continues to cover almost all of the day-to-day costs of running rail services”.

The number of journeys made by commuters using season tickets has dropped by 12.5% in three years, from 712m in 2015-16 to 625m this year.

The 2.8% figure will be the maximum rise to regulated fares, which account for about half of all rail journeys, including season tickets on most commuter routes, off-peak returns on long-distance trains and anytime tickets around major cities.

A 2.8% increase would make a Leeds to Manchester annual season ticket £91 more expensive at £3,363, and would add more than £117 to a Brighton to London or Edinburgh to Glasgow season ticket, both of which cost more than £4,200. A season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston is projected to cost £11,205 from January, a rise of £3,188 since 2010.

News of the increase comes after a year in which the structure and functioning of the railways has been called into question. Major commuter routes have largely recovered from the chaos of the 2018 summer timetable change, which led to thousands of cancellations and the railway’s worst punctuality performance in 18 years, but other problems have persisted.

Campaigners and unions staged protests against the fare increases on Wednesday at stations around Britain.

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Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

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