Train fares set to rise by average of 2.3%

“This is another kick in the teeth for British passengers,” rail union general secretary says

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The Independent Online

Train fares will go up by an average of 2.3 per cent from 2 January next year, the rail industry has announced. 

The increase in regulated fares, which includes season tickets, is capped at 1.9 per cent.

But fares that are not regulated, such as off-peak leisure tickets, can increase by as much as train companies decide.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said the fare hike would help improve services.

“We understand how passengers feel when fares go up, and we know that in some places they haven’t always got the service they pay for,” said chief executive Paul Plummer.

“Around 97p in every pound passengers pay goes back into running and improving services.

“Fares are influenced by government policy, either through government-regulated fares such as season tickets or as a result of the payments train companies make to government.

“This money helps government to support the biggest investment in our railway since Victorian times.”

Yet Lianna Etkind of the Campaign for Better Transport condemned the increase, warning that some passengers are “finding themselves priced off the railways”.

She said: “The train operating companies and the Government need to work closely together to provide fairer, simpler and cheaper fares making sure people are always sold the cheapest ticket available.

“Between 1995 and 2016 passengers have seen average fares increase by 23.5 per cent and much more needs to be done by train operators and the Government to give them a truly affordable railway.”

Ms Etkind accused the Government of “dragging its feet” over the introduction of flexible season tickets with “fair discounts” for the eight million part-time workers across the UK.

“It is not right that part-time workers have to buy expensive one-off tickets, or season tickets which they then waste on the days they don’t work,” she said.

The increases cover fares in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland’s rail fares are handled separately.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: “This latest fares hike is another kick in the teeth for British passengers and condemns them to continue to pay some of the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out and unreliable trains.

“Once again the rip-off private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank as they whack up fares and axe staff in an all-out dash to maximise their profits.

“This culture of private greed on Britain’s railways has to stop and RMT will step up the fight for a publicly-owned railway where services and safety are the priority, not corporate profits.”

Alongside the fares announcement, the Government said that some of Southern rail’s long-suffering passengers in the south of England are to repaid the equivalent of a month’s travel.

More than 84,000 passengers will be compensated to recognise the huge amount of delays, cancellations and disruption on the network in recent months.

The chaos has partly been caused by strikes over changes to the role of conductors and high levels of staff sickness.

Season ticket holders will be able to claim a refund for the equivalent of a month’s travel.

Passengers with an annual ticket will be able to claim the “one off” pay out against their 2016 ticket, which can be paid directly into their bank account.

Customers claiming against quarterly, monthly or weekly tickets must have bought travel for at least 12 weeks between 24 April and 31 December to be eligible.

The Government said GTR, the parent company of Southern, has the details of most season ticket holders and it will be inviting them to log on to a website to claim compensation.

The company will also be able to consider proof of purchase from people claiming a payout who have not previously registered.

Rail minister Paul Maynard said: “Getting Southern rail services back on track is a priority for the Government and I know that what passengers want most is a reliable service.

“But when things do go wrong it is right that we compensate people who have not had the service that they deserve. This is a gesture in recognition of the problems people have faced.

“We’re working hard to get Network Rail and Southern to improve this network and get this railway working the way people expect.

“We are investing record amounts in improving our railways and we need everyone in the rail industry, including the unions, to work together to deliver for passengers.”

Additional reporting by Press Association