Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of hitting hard-pressed families with “brutal” train ticket price hikes after announcing that rail fares will rise by 3.8 per cent from March 2022.
The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed on Friday that rail companies will be allowed to raise prices, despite Britain’s mounting cost of living crisis.
The steepest increase since 2013 comes as the cost of fuel, clothing and food continues to soar, with changes to the energy price cap expected to increase gas and electricity bills in April.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said capping rail fares in line with inflation by tying it to the Retail Price Index (RPI) seen in July “strikes a fair balance”.
He claimed the increase would mean “we can continue to invest records amounts into a more modern, reliable railway, ease the burden on taxpayers and protect passengers from the highest RPI in years”.
But Labour accused the government of allowing “brutal” price hikes that many would struggle to afford and leave commuters wondering “what planet ministers are on”.
The average commuter now faces paying £3,263 for their season ticket next year – 49 per cent more than in 2010, according to the party’s analysis.
Louise Haigh, shadow transport secretary, said: “This brutal Tory fare hike will be a nightmare before Christmas for millions of passengers.”
The Labour MP added: “Families already facing soaring taxes and bills will now be clobbered with an eye-watering rise in the cost of the daily commute.”
The cost of train travel normally increases on the first working day of every year – but has been pushed back until March. The increase is below the current RPI measure of inflation, which has soared to 7.1 per cent.
Mr Heaton-Harris said delaying until March next year would “offer people the chance to save money by renewing their fares at last year’s price”.
The minister said: “That includes the 100,000 people who are already making savings with cheaper and more convenient flexible season tickets.”
Andy Bagnall, director-general of industry body the Rail Delivery Group representing the train companies, welcomed the government’s decision.
“We know the railway must not take more than its fair share from the taxpayer – which is why the rail industry is working to create a financially sustainable and more passenger-focused service that will both keep costs down long-term and attract people back to the train,” said Mr Bagnall.
The DfT also announced the “book with confidence” scheme will be extended until 31 March. This allows passengers to change their travel plans up until the night before departure, or cancel their tickets and receive a refund in the form of rail vouchers.
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