Rise in rail fares will push average season ticket past £3,000 for first time

Dating service
Some commuters will see the price of their season tickets rise into five figures
Some commuters will see the price of their season tickets rise into five figures Credit: Munir Pirmohamed/@MPUoL/Twitter/PA

Commuters will face rail fare increases of almost 3 per cent in the new year, with the average season ticket hitting £3,000 for the first time, a new analysis suggests. 

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) is on Wednesday expected to confirm RPI at between 2.7 and 3 per cent, leaving rail users facing another round of inflation-busting price hikes in January. 

According to an analysis by Labour, which has compared fares on 183 train routes across the country, commuters can now expect to be paying up £3,067 for their season ticket, up from £2,980 last year. 

Rail fares increase at the start of January each year and under government policy are capped at the retail prices index (RPI) rate of inflation from the previous July. 

Compared with the consumer price index (CPI), which has been running at 1.9 per cent, it represents an above-inflation increase. 

While train companies are under no obligation to increase their prices to meet the cap, the majority have done in recent years.

The rise is likely to come despite Grant Shapps, the new Transport Secretary, expressing concerns that “train punctuality” had declined over the past years, a trend he said which had infuriated commuters. 

Labour claims that another 2.9 percent hike would mean that fares have risen by 40 per cent since 2010, with the highest increase projected to be a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston, which is expected to cost £10,902.

The party has analysed routes from commuter towns to major cities across the country, including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol. 

A separate analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) also suggests that London commuters travelling from Loughborough or Nottingham will see their season ticket hit £10,000 for the first time.

The TUC figures show that fares have increased twice as fast as wages and come on the back of a report earlier this year showing that British commuters spend up to five times more than other European passengers. 

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The last thing UK commuters need is another hefty fare increase. We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains.” 

But Robert Colville, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, accused rail unions of “sheer hypocrisy”, pointing out that they were demanding RPI-linked pay rises for workers whilst calling for fares to be aligned with the lower rate of CPI. 

Meanwhile, the campaign group Railfuture warned that faced with ever-increasing fares passengers may soon reach the point where “they will just give up and refuse to pay”. 

The latest hike is likely to be seized upon by Labour, which has promised to renationalise the railways in Government. 

Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: “Every year, commuters are being asked to pay more money for bad train services.

“The government has sat back and allowed private train companies to cash in while people’s pay has been held back. Fare rises undermine urgent action to tackle the climate emergency by pricing people off the railway.”

Tory MP Steve Double, a member of the Commons Transport Committee, added: “We are seeing passenger numbers continue to increase on the railway, but the responsibility has to be on the rail operators to prove the level of service. 

“If people are seeing their fares increase, they have a right to expect a level of service that is reliable and represents value for money.” 

Approached for comment, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It's tempting to suggest fares should never rise. However, the truth is that if we stop investing in our railway then we will never see it improved.

“My priority is to get the trains running on time, which is why are investing a record £48bn to modernise our network, boost reliability and create a railway fit for the 21st century.”