Rail fares will rise by 3.1 per cent in January despite timetable chaos hurting commuters

Joe Curtis
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Annual Rail Figures On Government And Private Finance Released
Rail commuters face paying more despite timetable chaos this year (Source: Getty)

Rail fares will rise by an average of 3.1 per cent in the new year, according to the Rail Delivery Group, hitting millions of commuters’ wallets.

The increase means many passengers will pay around £100 more for their season tickets, despite a year in which travellers have suffered strikes, delays and timetable chaos on many lines.

The hike - which arrives on 2 January - is slightly below the retail price index (RPI) to which it is tied, which rose 3.2 per cent this year.

Rail bosses have defended the higher prices, saying the increase will fund a once in a generation investment programme in infrastructure.

It comes after calls for a price freeze this year following generally poor service, with Network Rail facing a fine after delivering its worst performance for four years.

The rises add another £148 to the price of a season ticket between Brighton and London, and comes after widespread timetable chaos hit commuters in May, leading to weeks of delays and cancellations.

“Nobody wants to pay more to travel, especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year,” said Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies and Network Rail.

“Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy. That means more seats, extra services and better connections right across the country.”

Promising the biggest investment in the UK railway since Victorian times, rail firms will bring in 7,000 new carriages to support an extra 6,400 services a week by 2021, the Rail Delivery Group said.

The fare hike is higher than last January’s average 3.3 per cent rise to regulated fares, but campaigners have called for future increases to be tied to the consumer price index (CPI), which is generally lower than the RPI.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said it is “time for a fairer, clearer fares formula based on a calculation that uses the CPI”.

“Many passengers, still reeling from summer timetable chaos and frustrated by autumn disruption, won’t believe fares are going up again,” he added.

“Until day-to-day reliability returns - with fewer significant delays and cancellations - passenger trust won’t begin to recover.”

Claiming that passengers spend £10bn a year on the rail industry, alongside government investment, Smith called for better value for money.

The news comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan confirmed the third successive year of fare freezes across the Transport for London (TfL) network.

The average London household stands to save £200 by 2020 after the mayor’s four-year freeze.

This is despite TfL counting the cost of £200m in lost fares from the delay to Crossrail, which was meant to open next month but is now delayed until autumn 2019.