Fares to rise by more than 9% as rail pressure groups hit out at 'inflation-busting' increases

Price increases of more than double inflation prompt complaints from consumer groups

Deputy Political Editor

Rail groups have hit out after it emerged that fares could rise by more than nine per cent next year for some train journeys.

Inflation figures to be published next week will pave the way to average ticket price rises of around 4.3 per cent in the New Year, but train operators will be allowed to increase some fares by as much as 9.3 per cent.

It follows an average rise of 4.2 per cent on rail network in 2013 and increases twice that size on some popular routes.

The pressure group Passenger Focus called for the Government to abandon the formula that has led to a succession of “inflation-busting” fare rises – and has left Britain with some of the most expensive tickets in Europe.

David Sidebottom, the group’s director, said: “Earlier this year fares went up on average by 4.2 per cent and yet some passengers saw an increase of five per cent more. While we understand the need for flexibility, we strongly believe that this system needs to be changed.”

Rail fares for 2014 will be linked to the July inflation rate. Average regulated fares, which include most season tickets and off-peak tickets, will go up by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) plus one per cent. City analysts are forecasting an inflation rate of 3.3 per cent, meaning an average ticket rise of 4.3 per cent.

In addition, rail companies are allowed the flexibility of adding an extra five per cent for some journeys as long as they remain within the overall average.

Details of individual ticket prices will be announced in the autumn and come into effect on January 2.

The Commuter watchdog London TravelWatch said: “We are worried about the risk of further fare increases in the next few years when many passengers’ incomes are falling in real terms and they have few alternatives.”

Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary, said: “David Cameron and George Osborne are totally out of touch with the cost of living crisis facing Britain’s commuters.

“Another fare rise of up to nine per cent will yet again expose as a complete sham the Prime Minister’s pledge to limit fare rises to one per cent above inflation.”

A Department for Transport (DoT) spokesman said: “We want to see railways, and the benefits they deliver to our economy, grow so we are investing record amounts in the network. But we also recognise the need to give rail passengers a better deal on fares.

“That is why we have capped rail fare rises at RPI+1 and it is why we will announce a range of further measures to benefit the passenger when we publish our fares and ticketing review later in the year.”

The DoT review is examining the whole fare structure to establish whether there are anomalies which need to be corrected. It is also looking at ways of using mobile applications to help passengers find the lowest fare between two destinations, which is often not available over the counter or from ticket machines.

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