The dreaded news for commuters came out this morning that regulated rail fares are set to rise by 3.6 per cent next year, and there's promptly been a backlash.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has called it an "unacceptable fare increase".
The government links the annual rise in Britain’s regulated fares, which make up nearly half of all tickets, to the July retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation. That was released this morning by the Office for National Statistics.
Brace yourselves: Rail fares set to rise 3.6 per cent next year
Train operators are allowed to raise fares by as much as the RPI figure, with regulated fares including season tickets as well as standard returns.
The news has sparked criticism over both the rise, and the measure of using RPI for calculating the increase of rail fares.
It beggars belief that the government is yet again choosing to inflict sky-high rail fare increases on commuters who have suffered another year of strikes, delays and overcrowded services.
The government simply cannot continue this cycle of misery. There’s still time for ministers to stop this unacceptable fare increase and I’m calling on them to do the decent thing and match my TfL fares freeze for the good of all Londoners. If I can freeze TfL fares, then there is no reason why they can’t do the same for national rail and commuter services.
And Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, the chair of the Transport Select Committee, said on Twitter that the rise was "particularly galling for those passengers who aren't getting the electrified train services they were promised". Last month, the government announced planned electrification of railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North had been scrapped.
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the RMT union Mick Cash, called the hike "another kick in the teeth for passengers who already fork out colossal sums to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains".
The union is holding protests at stations across the UK today over the rise in fares.
RPI vs CPI
David Sidebottom, director of travel watchdog Transport Focus, said:
“Why is the government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the consumer prices index for rail fares too? Passengers deserve a fairer deal.”
And the boss of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned that London transport costs were "one of the biggest problems for business when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff".
Colin Stanbridge said the latest rise "will only exacerbate the problem".
Kept under review
The government however, has said it "carefully monitors how rail fares and average earnings change, and keeps under review the way fare levels are calculated".
And Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms and Network Rail, said:
Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.
It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI.
Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.