Big rail fare rises possible, admits minister

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Indy Politics

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond today held out little hope that rail commuters will escape big fare rises in the new year.

In their General Election manifesto the Liberal Democrats said they wanted to change the formula which allows train companies to annually raise regulated fares, which include season tickets, by 1% above the Retail Prices Index (RPI) rate of inflation.

But Tory Mr Hammond said today that although the coalition Government was committed to having a "fair fares" policy there was "no specific commitment" to changing the RPI plus 1% formula.

The January rises are based on the RPI inflation figure from the previous July. With RPI inflation now 5.3%, it seems likely that the January 2011 rise for regulated fares will be a hefty one.

Speaking at at event at King's Cross station in London today, Mr Hammond said: "We have made a commitment to having fair fares but we don't have a specific commitment to changing the formula."

He said the Government had to be "realistic" about the economic situation and that changing the formula at the moment would be "difficult".

Mr Hammond also said the new Government was committed to helping London Mayor Boris Johnson and his team deliver the £16 billion cross-London Crossrail scheme, which is due for completion in 2017.

Mr Hammond said the new administration was also keen to ensure that, with plans for a third runway at Heathrow scrapped, a high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham should include a direct link to the west London airport.

He was speaking at the opening of a new platform at King's Cross, part of a £500 million redevelopment of the station.