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Rail season ticket prices to rise by 1% amid low inflation

Rail passengers will face average season ticket price rises of 1% in January following the announcement of the July inflation figures.

The new-year rises are based on the previous July's rate of Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation, announced by the Office for National Statistics.

It will be the lowest rise since 2010, when fares actually decreased by 0.4%.

David Sidebottom, director of transport user watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Fares are set to increase again, but passengers will be relieved to see that fare rises in England are being capped at inflation.

"They will be pleased to see that there is no flexibility for individual fares to go up by more than this. Both of these are things we have pushed for.

"While fares are going up, for many people punctuality is going down. The poor performance in the South East in particular highlights how Network Rail and operators need to deliver a more consistent day-to-day service which passengers can rely on."

In 2010 rail fares decreased by 0.4% after the previous July's rate of RPI inflation was minus 1.4%, because fare rises were based on RPI plus 1%. Since 2014 fare rises have matched RPI.

Since 2011 annual fare rises have been between 2.5% and 6%.

The latest figures came as a report found that fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the past five years.

A study by the Action For Rail campaign showed that season tickets and other regulated fares had increased by 25% since 2010, while average pay went up by 9%.

Government plans to cap annual rises in regulated fares will cost taxpayers around £700 million over the next five years, but bigger savings could be passed on to passengers if train services were run by the public sector, said the report.

Season tickets could be 10% cheaper by 2017 if routes coming up for tender were given to public sector organisations, it was claimed.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Rail fares have rocketed over the last five years, leaving many commuters seriously out of pocket."

Edward Welsh, spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said the rail industry would "continue working to get the most out of every pound we spend".

He added: " The railway is a vital public service, underpinning economic growth and attracting more passengers every year.

"In one of the biggest investment programmes in rail's history, Government is spending billions of pounds on more trains, improved stations and better services.

"We understand that people don't like to pay more to travel to work. But more than 97p in every pound spent on fares goes on trains, staff and other day-to-day running costs, helping to sustain the Government's massive rail investment programme."

Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, said: " The Government is using smoke and mirrors to disguise the fact that the real cost of rail travel will again be going up.

"The Conservatives promised in their manifesto that there would be a freeze on rail fares in England for the lifetime of the Parliament, but the real cost of rail travel continues to rise.

"People's incomes are virtually stagnant, but because the Government insists on using RPI instead of CPI (Consumer Price Index), rail fares will go up by about 1%.

"Add to that the fact that George Osborne has repeatedly frozen fuel duty for motorists, and that the cost of oil is falling, and it looks like the Government are trying to drive people off the railways and onto the roads. So much for the greenest government ever."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "As part of our long-term economic plan, we are investing record amounts in transforming the UK's rail network in order to provide better journeys for everyone, and fares have an important role to play in delivering this investment.

"But I know that many families are concerned about the cost of rail travel, which is why we are putting an end to above-inflation fare increases. This will make a real difference to household budgets, saving season ticket holders around £425 each over the next five years.

"It also means that for first time since 2002 wages are increasing by more than fares, which is real progress for the passenger."


From Belfast Telegraph