Rail users hit by above-inflation fare increases

 
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TRAIN passengers will from today have to pay an average of 3.9 per cent more for their tickets.

Commuters on some routes will be hammered by hikes of more than 10 per cent, sparking anger among campaigners and politicians over the government’s rules on setting fares.

Train operators must stick to an inflation-linked cap on price rises for regulated fares, which make up around half of all tickets.

However, they can raise some fares beyond this providing the firm’s average increase comes in under the limit. Firms can raise or lower unregulated fares by any amount.

Season tickets, which are regulated, will rise by an average of 4.2 per cent.

Transport minister Norman Baker has defended this year’s hike, saying users must help pay for improvements to the rail network, but passenger groups have been critical.

“Yet again, rail fares go up with no perceptible improvement in service. Over the last 10 years, fares have increased by more than 50 per cent – much more than people’s incomes,” said Bruce Williamson, a spokesperson for Railfuture. The campaign group has warned that some unregulated fares will soar by up to 12 per cent.

In October, Prime Minister David Cameron trumpeted a move to cap regulated fares at one per cent above the retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation, down from the previously announced three per cent rise.

But opposition politicians say the coalition has misled passengers by referring to a price cap when train operators can raise some fares far beyond the limit.

“The government should come clean with commuters that this is a direct result of their decision to cave in to pressure from the private train companies to let them hike ticket prices beyond the so called cap,” said shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle.

Rail firms, however, moved to distance themselves from today’s increase. “We understand commuters don’t like to pay more to travel to work but it is the government, not train companies, that decides how much season tickets should rise on average each year,” said Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies.

Transport for London is raising its fares by 4.2 per cent, or one per cent above RPI inflation.