Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has announced that average train fares in the UK will increase by 3.4 per cent from January 2, 2018, the biggest rise since fares went up 3.9 per cent in 2013.
The group said the increase covers regulated fares such as season tickets and unregulated fares such as off-peak leisure tickets. It added the average price rise is less than July’s Retail Prices Index of 3.6 per cent and claimed 97 per cent of money from ticket sales “goes back into improving and running the railway”, bringing up improvement projects such as Crossrail, Thameslink, Edinburgh-Glasgow, Great Western, Waterloo and upgrades in the midlands and the north.
RDG said new measures had been introduced to help passengers with the cost of travel, such as the 26-30 railcard trial, which launches December 6, digital railcards and cheaper advanced fares available on the day of travel.
RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Government controls increases to almost half of fares, including season tickets, with the rest heavily influenced by the payments train companies make to government.”
Plummer also commented that RDG plans to secure £85 billion of additional economic benefits “while enabling further investment and improved journeys for customers”.
The RMT Union called the announcement “another kick in the teeth for British passengers”, with general secretary Mick Cash saying the UK pays the highest fares in Europe. He said: “For public sector workers and many others in our communities who have had their pay and benefits capped or frozen by this government, these fare increases are another twist of the economic knife while private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.”
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus commented that rail companies need to focus more on meeting passengers’ basic needs. Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “A chill wind will blow down England’s platforms in January as rail fare increases bite. Many passengers face stagnant or falling incomes while rail fares continue to climb. It is time that the fairer, clearer Consumer Prices Index formula is used as the basis for rail fare rises rather than the increasingly outmoded RPI.
“While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days. Passengers’ immediate priorities are clear: a more reliable railway, better handling of disruption and better value for money.”
RDG’s Plummer admitted to the BBC’s Today programme that the rise is “a significant increase”, but insisted that the money will be used to improve the rail system.