The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has announced that average ticket prices will increase by 3.2 per cent from January despite calls for a freeze in the wake of ongoing widespread disruption.
The rise in regulated fares, including season tickets, is less than the 3.5 per cent predicted earlier this week. However, commuters are still expressing their rage on social media, with many saying an increase ‘well above’ July’s inflation rate of 2.5 per cent is ‘unjustifiable’ for those who are still suffering from the disruption caused by the introduction of a new timetable in May.
The news comes after transport secretary Chris Grayling suggested rail fare increases going forward should be tied to the lower Consumer Price Index rather than the Retail Price Index – but only if rail unions would also be willing to cap pay rises for staff based on the CPI.
Grayling said: “I support paying rail staff decent wages for the hard work they do, but I also now believe it is important that pay agreements also use CPI and not RPI in future when it comes to basing pay deals on inflation.”
He claimed it was “difficult to justify using a different measure of inflation in the rail industry to the one that is widely used across services like the NHS”. He has asked RDG to support an industry move to using CPI as its inflation measure.
However, RDG CEO Raul Plummer didn’t offer an immediate response to calls for a change in the way fare increases are decided, saying: “We understand that aspects of the current fares system are frustrating for people, which is why as part of the industry’s plan, train companies are also leading a consultation to update regulation and improve the range of fares on offer, making the system simpler and easier to use for customers.”
He was referencing the rail industry’s ‘jargon-cutting’ campaign to remove ‘confusing’ language from tickets and fares, which has seen words such as “Any Permitted” removed from tickets where they’re only valid on one route.
RDG claims these changes will make it easier for passengers to know whether they’re paying the right fare.
But one Twitter user pointed out that a season ticket for journeys between Leeds and Manchester – one of the lines still affected by the timetable change – will be more than £2,000 for a 20-minute journey when the increase comes into effect in January.
Offering an explanation for the average increase, Plummer added: “Fares are underpinning a once-in-a-generation investment plan to improve the railway and politicians effectively determine that season ticket prices should change in line with other day-to-day costs to help fund this.
“While the industry is learning lessons from the recent timetable change, major improvements have been delivered this year, from upgraded stations at London Bridge and Liverpool Lime Street to new trains in the South West and Scotland, and more will be delivered in the next year.”
According to the TUC, rail fares in the UK have gone up 42 per cent since 2008, while average weekly pay has only risen 18 per cent in the same period. It said train companies paid out £165 million in dividends to shareholders last year, when subsidies from taxpayer money reached £3.5 billion.