Rail passengers hit by 8% hike in ticket prices

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers are set to see ticket price rises of around eight per cent after an increase in the amount operators can raise fares over the rate of inflation came into effect.

The changes mean that a monthly season ticket between Oxford and London is likely to increase by £31.52 to £425.52 per month.

The Government announced in last year's Spending Review that its formula for calculating regulated fares such as season tickets will allow for price increases of three per cent over each July's Retail Price Index (RPI) for the next three years. The previous formula allowed for price increases of one per cent over RPI.

Office for National Statistics figures released yesterday showed no change in the index, which remains at five per cent. And flexibility within the regulations means some operators can charge even more on some routes, provided their average rises do not exceed the new guideline figure of eight per cent.

A protest against the fare increases took place outside Waterloo Station in London yesterday as part of the Campaign for Better Transport's "Fair Fares Now" campaign. The group has also started a petition demanding the scrapping of "above inflation fare hikes".

Alexandra Woodsworth, Campaign for Better Transport's public transport campaigner, called the fare rises "punitive" and said they would "deal a fresh blow to commuters already facing the financial crunch of rising costs combined with frozen wages".

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond admitted the decision to introduce the higher rate of fare rises "has not been popular", but said: "We are now embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment for a hundred years." The increases will take effect in January.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said: "These hikes are part of the wider agenda to put profit before people and to make passengers and rail workers pay to maintain the profits of the private operators."

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