The Department of Transport has said that next January will see a rise of 1% in regulated rail fares. This increase is pegged to July’s inflation level of 1%, measured according to the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
The approaching 1% price increase applies to regulated rail fares – a group which includes around half of all the tickets purchased by train travellers. This grouping includes day returns – the most common ticket type used by those taking one-off trips for either business or pleasure – as well as season tickets, on which many commuters rely.
Analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has suggested that the past several years of rail fare increases have been well ahead of inflation. Over the last five years, rail fares are reported to have been increasing nearly three times as fast as wages. The average pay among the UK’s employed population has risen 9% since 2010, while regulated rail fares have increased by 25%. However, Claire Perry, the rail minister, is insisting that current government plans will eliminate these “inflation-busting” rail fare hikes.
Indeed, there is already a restriction in place which limits fare increases and keeps them in line with RPI-measured inflation. This restriction was put in place by the previous, coalition government and has been in effect for the past two years. Furthermore, Perry claimed that fare increases next year will be “some of the lowest increases for decades.” She also said that January’s 1% increase “is actually a real-terms freeze.”
However, general secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady was not satisfied with these claims, saying that the rapid rise of rail fares had left many regular travellers “seriously out of pocket.”
“If ministers really want to help hard-pressed commuters,” she continued, “they need to return services to the public sector.” This, she claimed, “would allow much bigger savings to be passed on to passengers.” Indeed, major rail unions have been for some time calling for a return to a public sector rail network in the belief that it would lead to lower prices.
According to research commissioned by Action for Rail, a campaign group set up by TUC and rail unions to call for the railways to be returned to public ownership, re-nationalising the railways would save £1.5 billion over the next five years. While commissioned by the campaign group, the research was carried out by Transport for Quality of Life, a prominent transport consultancy.