COMMUTERS are set to come in for a hammering from January next year, when rail companies are next allowed to raise fares.
Individual fares will be lifted by up to 11.2 per cent, as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) plan to shift costs from the Exchequer to the passenger.
The cap on regulated fares, which make up about 45 per cent of total journeys, will rise by 6.2 per cent in England next year – headline retail price inflation for July plus an additional three per cent.
Individual fares could rise by up to five per cent more – or less – so long as each franchisee maintains the cap average across their so-called basket of regulated tickets.
This basket is weighted by passenger volume, so train companies can only hike prices on popular lines if fare rises are depressed across a wide range of their other routes.
Labour, the trade unions and Liberal Democrat transport representatives came out in opposition to the move, which aims to reduce the amount society subsidises the country’s railways.
“David Cameron’s decision to side with the private train operators against commuters and passengers shows he is out of touch with the cost-of-living crisis facing many hard-working families,” said shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle.
But representatives of the rail industry rejected claims that the fare rise benefited them, pointing out that higher fares were directly linked to reduced taxpayer support.
“The government decides the average increase of commuter ticket prices and other regulated fares which train companies will be required to introduce,” noted Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies.
“Any flexibility train companies have within the rules is to maximise revenue for the government,” he added.
Nevertheless, public pressure pushed Tory transport tsar Justine Greening into looking for a way to pacify protestors with the public purse.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so I’ll make sure I’ll ask,” she said, as she sought some way of limiting the extent of the rises.
London Travel Watch, a group that represents passengers in the capital, remained unimpressed. “Londoners already pay a higher contribution towards the running of rail services than other areas. Passengers want simpler, more transparent fares,” it said, also calling for the Mayor to have control of rail services in London.
SEASON TICKET FARES TO LONDON TERMINALS WILL INCREASE BY AN AVERAGE OF 6.2%