Train pain for season ticket commuters

Marion Dakers
COMMUTERS should brace themselves for season ticket price hikes of up to six per cent in January, despite the government’s intervention to stem inflation-linked fare rises.

Passengers from Canterbury will be worst hit in percentage terms, with the price of an annual season ticket to London rising 5.9 per cent to £4,860 in the new year, Passenger Focus said yesterday.

Just one of the 45 season passes checked by the watchdog will become cheaper in 2013. Greater Anglia customers travelling to the capital from Shenfield will enjoy a 0.6 per cent drop to £2,704.

“Passengers will feel this pain. After years of above-inflation fare rises, fresh increases are piling pressure on already high fares,” said Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith.

“Government and the rail industry must now work together to deliver on the welcome promise to get fare rises in line with inflation.”

In October, the Department for Transport lowered the planned rise in average regulated fares from 6.2 to 4.2 per cent, or one per cent above the retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation.

At the time the government claimed passengers would be spared as much as £200 on rises that had been pencilled in for the new year.

Plans to set the fare hike limit at RPI plus three per cent had already been delayed once, after chancellor George Osborne backtracked in last year’s Autumn Statement.

However, train companies are free to hike some fares by more than the limit, providing the average rise does not stray above 4.2 per cent.

Commuters must wait until December to find out how far the price of other types of ticket will rise.

Passenger Focus said 42 per cent of train users are happy with the cost of tickets – but this falls to 29 per cent for those who commute for work.