Britain already has the highest train fares in Europe and they are about to shoot up again, outstripping even inflation. Unregulated fares – such as the peak intercity tickets that make up 60 per cent of journeys – may soar by 13 per cent. And even the most modest increases are nearly three times more than the average UK wage rise.
The rail companies say they need the money for investment, not least since subsidies have been trimmed by two-thirds since 2006. Even so, in a climate of economic uncertainty, reduced consumer confidence and public-spending cuts, the fare hikes are far from helpful.
The Government's defence is that the rises would have been higher had the Chancellor not intervened. That is little comfort. With rail travel in increasing danger of becoming the preserve of the wealthy, it is the green agenda that will suffer as Britons stick to their cars. More must be done to make train tickets affordable.