Rail fare increase: Tickets for intercity routes race towards £1 per mile

The annual rail-fare rise, which takes effect on 2 January, averages 1.1 per cent

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 04 December 2015 17:33 GMT
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Inter-City rail fares racing towards £1 a mile

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As Britain’s rail network gets ever more crowded, standard-class fares on parts of the intercity network are rapidly heading for £1 per mile.

The annual rail-fare rise, which takes effect on 2 January, averages 1.1 per cent. “Regulated” prices, including commuter season tickets and off-peak returns on many long-distance journeys, will rise in line with July’s rate of inflation of 1 per cent. Unregulated fares will increase by slightly more.

The Rail Delivery Group says train operators have greater freedom to set unregulated fares “where there is more competition with other train operators and coach, car or air travel.”

Many so-called “walk-up” fares now exceed the 67p per mile charged by British Airways for a last-minute one-way Club World flight from Heathrow to Singapore.

Research by The Independent shows the “anytime” fare for the 65-mile journey from Watford Junction to Rugby will rise to £61.50 from the new year, a price of 94.6p per mile.

Travellers who are prepared to take a slower and more circuitous journey on London Midland pay almost half for anytime tickets, and as little as £14.50 for travelling off-peak.

On Virgin Trains’ east coast routes, many fares stay the same: London-Leeds stays at £112. But peak-hour travellers from Wakefield to Peterborough will pay 78.4p for each mile of the journey.

Waterloo is expected to be the first station in Europe to reach 100 million passengers in a year
Waterloo is expected to be the first station in Europe to reach 100 million passengers in a year

On the Great Western route between London and Bristol, where the electrification programme is running disastrously late, travellers will pay up to 92.5p a mile to travel on 40-year-old diesel trains. That rate will apply for the 15-minute, 24-mile hop from Swindon to Didcot, set to rise to £22.20.

Six extreme rail fares

  • Watford Junction-Rugby: Virgin Trains West Coast, 94.6p per mile
  • Didcot Parkway-Swindon: GWR, 92.5p per mile
  • London Euston-Stockport: Virgin Trains West Coast, 87.5p per mile
  • Wakefield-Peterborough: Virgin Trains East Coast, 78.4p per mile
  • Castle Cary-Newbury: GWR, 78.2p per mile
  • Bedford-Wellingborough: East Midlands Trains, 71.6p per mile

Anytime tickets on GWR’s 62-mile link between Castle Cary and Newbury cost £48.50, or 78.2p per mile.

The AA computes the per-mile cost for a small car covering 10,000 miles a year at around 40p.

Passengers on the UK’s most expensive railway, the Heathrow Express, will see a 2.5 per cent increase in walk-up fares to £22 one way, which works out at £1.50 per mile for the journey from London Paddington to Britain's busiest airport. Travellers who buy tickets on the train pay an extra £5. However, the Heathrow-owned train operator has launched fares for £6.99 for travellers prepared to commit three months in advance.

Another feature of the fare rises that take place on 2 January is that for some journeys, a day-return costs virtually the same as a one-week season ticket. Between Warrington and Milton Keynes, for example, an anytime return ticket suitable for a business traveller on a day trip will cost £205. A seven-day season costs just 10 pence more.

In the five years since January 2011, average rail fares have risen by 24 per cent. Demand has continued to grow, with Waterloo in London expected to be the first station in Europe to reach 100 million passengers in a year.

Fares researched at nationalrail.co.uk; mileage from National Rail Timetable

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