19 Aug 2014

Fair fares? Cost of rail tickets rises as wages stagnate

Rail passengers will have to pay an extra 3.5 per cent for their season tickets in January on top of the big increases they have seen since the last election.

Figures published by the Office for National Sttaistics show that retail price index (RPI) inflation rose by 2.5 per cent in July, down from 2.6 per cent in June.

It is this figure that is used to work out regulated rail fares in 2015, and with train operators alowed to charge 1 per cent above RPI, commuters will be hit with a 3.5 per cent hike.

The rise takes the overall increase in fares to around 24.7 per cent during this parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

Above: Conservative Rail Minister Claire Perry MP and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Mary Creagh MP debate rail price rises.

Rail operators also have a “flex” rule which allows them to raise some regulated fares by 2 per cent above the average as long as the overall increase remains at RPI plus 1 per cent. This means some fares could go by around 5.5 per cent in the new year.

With wages failing to keep up with the rise in the cost of living, Chancellor George Osborne will come under pressure to once again limit the annual increase.

In his 2013 autumn statement, he took action to limit the January 2014 rise in regulated fares to RPI, while reducing the “flex” rule from 5 per cent to 2 per cent. This kept the average increase in regulated fares to 3.1 per cent.


Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: “David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. He’s allowed train companies to sting passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of over 20 per cent since 2010, costing them hundreds of pounds. We can’t go on like this.

“We will introduce a strict cap on rail fares, removing the flex arrangement that allows train companies to raise fares more on some routes.”

CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “With people’s wages stagnating and in some cases falling, the expense of taking the train to work has become a huge part of living costs.

“If the government doesn’t put an end to above-inflation fare increases quickly, ordinary commuters will be priced off the train and could be forced into agonising decisions such as moving house or quitting their jobs.”

‘Comfortable commuting’

Rail Minister Claire Perry told the BBC Today programme fare rises were funding investment and “comfortable commuting”. She added that passengers were paying for the “biggest investment in the rail network since Victorian times”.

Train travel has increased, a result of investment in the rail network, according to industry body, the Rail Delivery Group.

Price per mile

We asked our Twitter followers to tell us how much they pay for their commute, to enable us to work out who might be paying over the odds and who might be getting ripped off on a short journey.

The Mill Hill Broadway to Borehamwood route, costing @Magical_Daddy £5.20 per day will rise to a £1307 cost. That’s £325 per year, per mile (PYPM) that that Twitter user has to fork out for the ride, which is about average.

Commuter Craig Thomson, @20619T, is doing the Surbiton to Waterloo route for £230 month, which next year will rise to £2857. That’s £230 per year per mile. On the Kenley to East Croydon line, @AnaCallisa will pay about £3118 cost next year, that’s £577 per mile across the year, a large cost for a short journey.

It’s a better deal outside of London, with the now £3395 per year Insch to Aberdeen train costing £123 per year per mile for Alun Williams @alunllwilliams, while a Durham to Newcastle trip sets back Jonathan Carr @carrzy just £70 per mile per year, with a £1333 annual cost.

And no suprises that at £236 per mile per year, the long and often criticised St Albans to London St Pancras route is the costliest at £5684 for Jaime Taylor @jamietaylor. Not much fun when it’s notoriously difficult to find a seat on that line at peak times.