Commuters face rail fare hike in 2011

RAIL passengers could face a steep rise in fare prices next year, according to transport secretary Philip Hammond, who said that the existing pricing formula might not survive the tough autumn spending review.

Fares are expected to rise by more than six per cent at the start of 2011 but Hammond has warned they could climb even higher if the Department for Transport (DfT) has to make bigger cuts to its budget.

Hammond said that the DfT is hoping it can hold on to the existing formula, which places fare rises in line with the retail prices index (RPI) and adds one per cent.

He said: “We need to wait for the spending settlement before I can say what I have to do next year.”

His comments have angered rail union RMT, which warned that fares could be hiked, while orders for rolling stock could be scrapped, putting projects in doubt.

“It could not be clearer – the government is planning to bleed rail passengers dry and attack essential modernisation programmes while ring-fencing the profits of the train operators,” said RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

Hammond maintained that he was committed to high-speed rail and projects such as Crossrail, which he said could kill off domestic aviation within decades.

But RMT criticised the government’s supposed plans to reconsider a £1bn electrification project and said there was a possibility a raft of rolling stock renewal orders could be scrapped.

Crow said: “We could see fares jacked up by as much as 10 per cent while passengers are crammed into ancient carriages running on creaking track with huge safety risks the length and breadth of the country.”

RMT said the 10 per cent figure was an estimate and that it wasn’t based on any calculations.