Train users set to benefit from lower fare rises

Train user

A cap is to be placed on the amount by which rail companies can increase rail fares in England, the government has said, putting to an end double-digit increases faced by commuters and passengers in recent years.

The transport secretary said train-operating companies will no longer be able to increase individual fares by 5% above inflation each year - instead, rises will be capped at 2% above inflation.

The fares and ticketing review, published by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, also outlines proposals to offer cheaper season tickets to part-time workers, new rules to ensure station ticket offices open at sensible times, and a code of conduct that will force rail firms to make it easier for passengers to find the most suitable ticket.

Rail companies are legally allowed to add an extra 5% to some individual fares - but only if the average rise across all regulated fares works out at 1% above inflation (as measured by the Retail Prices Index). However, the new rules mean that the extra 5% will fall to just 2%

Patrick McLoughlin MP said: "By capping fares we are protecting passengers from large rises at a time when family incomes are already being squeezed. We will need to wait for the rail industry to calculate individual ticket prices for next year, but this cap could save some commuters as much as £200 a year."

Fairer system

The news did not thrill consumer groups, who pointed out that millions of people have had to absorb soaring ticket prices of up to 10% - and the latest proposals will do nothing to prevent inflation-busting rises in the future.

Critics also said the new rules will still allow rail companies to levy lower percentage increases on quiet routes and larger increases on busier routes, helping them maximise income at commuters' expense. 

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said: “Although we welcome a curb on even higher fare increases, there's still a gaping hole at the centre of the Government's fares policy. Whilst trials for things like part-time season tickets are very welcome, the biggest issue has always been annual above inflation fare increases and there is no change of policy on this.

"This is bitter news for everyone who relies on the train to get to work, not least the large number of commuters in marginal constituencies who will be a key group at the next election."

Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport union, added: "This is a total con that will still leave the vast majority paying inflation-busting fares to pump up the profits of the private train operators. For a few it will feel like having your wallet nicked with the mugger then handing you a few bob back to buy a pint. Nobody will be fooled by this political stunt."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Passenger Focus, was more positive: "Passengers will be pleased to hear that the amount train companies can raise individual regulated fares by has been limited. We have been calling for this to happen for years - it is a step towards a fairer system.

"This will allow passengers to plan with a bit more certainty and have confidence that actual regulated fare rises will bear more relation to the figures set by government."

David Mapp, commercial director at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Train companies and passengers will welcome the planned reduction. The reduction being proposed is in line with that suggested by train companies and should help to encourage greater rail use.

"The package of measures, which train companies have worked with the government to draw up, should make it quicker and easier than ever for people to get the best value ticket for their rail journey."

However, the 4.1% rise due to be introduced in January will remain in place as it was determined before the new proposals.

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Am I being pedantic?  How can one 'benefit from lower train fare rises'?  sounds more like a bit of political BS to me!  Surely one can only benefit from fare cuts!

This is rubbish. Fares will still rise far faster than income. There is no help for the beleagured commuter in this, merely a slight (very!) lessening of the pain.