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Rail fares set for highest rise in five years

Rail fares in the UK are set for their highest rate of increase for five years in 2018 due to a jump in inflation.

The government bases the following year’s cap on regulated fare increases on July’s retail price index (RPI), which rose to 3.6 per cent last month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This compares with a rise in the ticket price cap of 1 per cent and 1.9 per cent for the two previous years respectively - both of these figures were based on RPI levels during the previous July.

It is now expected that regulated rail fares, which include season tickets as well as some anytime and off-peak fares in England and Wales, can go up by 3.6 per cent from the start of 2018.

But consumer groups have raised questions about how the government works out the annual increase in rail fares.

David Sidebottom, director of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Yet again, passengers - now majority funders of the railway - face fare rises next January.

“Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score – just one third according to our latest survey. So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.

“Why is the government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the Consumer Prices Index for rail fares too? Passengers deserve a fairer deal.”

But Paul Plummer, CEO of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train operating companies, said the money from fares “pays to run and improve the railway” and the increases were set by the government.

“It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI,” added Plummer.

“Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.”

In Scotland, regulated rail fares for anytime and season tickets are also set at the level of RPI with off-peak fares at 1 per cent below RPI.

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