Train fares likely to rise by 1.9% in 2017
Regulated rail fares in England and Wales are likely to rise by 1.9% in January 2017, based on the inflation figures released today.
Under the rules in England, regulated rail fares can only rise annually by the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation, which is the less widely used and generally higher measure of inflation compared to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The increase means season tickets and off-peak rail fares will increase by up to 1.9%, slightly more than the 1.1% hike in January 2016. A 1.9% rise would add £57 to the cost of a £3,000 season ticket, for example.
However, train users who buy peak travel fares and advance tickets could see travel costs rise faster as there is no price cap for these unregulated tickets and fee increases are at each train company’s discretion.
James MacColl, a campaigner for commuter interest group Better Transport, is calling for the introduction of part time season tickets to protect some workers from inflation-busting ticket price increases.
He says: “The current season ticket system still fails to reflect our modern work force and discriminates against women who make up three quarters of part-time workers, years after the Government committed to roll-out flexible ticketing nationally.
"We want to see a ticketing system that reflects modern working patterns and makes rail travel affordable, not just for the UK’s millions of part-time workers, but also for the thousands more who are currently prevented from working due to the cost of the commute. It is not good enough for the Government to leave it up to franchisees to develop inadequate compromise offers which don't provide fair discounts.”
Rising rail fares will frustrate people who have suffered from terrible service in recent months, most notably Southern Rail, which is running a reduced service indefinitely.
Rail fares elsewhere in the UK
Rail fares in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are devolved and set in each country. Welsh rail fares are expected to track the price increase in England, as they did last year.
Regulated peak fares in Scotland will rise by 1.9%, though regulated off-peak tickets will rise by just 0.9%, according to ScotRail. Price hikes for unregulated fares north of the border are yet to be decided.
Today’s inflation figure has no implications for Northern Ireland residents, as train fares aren’t set in relation to inflation, but instead by regular review.
How to delay the price hike
If you’re looking to dodge the price increase, most companies offer interest-free 12 month loans to buy season tickets. If you buy your new ticket just before the new prices kick in, in January 2017, you’ll get 12 months extra at current prices.
Today’s inflation figures also reveal that CPI, the main measure of UK inflation, rose slightly to 0.6% in the year toJuly, up from 0.5% the previous month.
The biggest upward pressures on inflation were restaurants and hotels (up 0.3%), education (up 0.1%) and communications costs (up 0.1%), though these were partially offset by falling food and energy bills.
Gareth Shaw, head of consumer affairs at Saga Investments says: “The slight increase in the Consumer Prices Index spells more bad news for savers, as inflation creeps towards the average return on savings accounts. In a month’s time, savers could well be losing money in real terms.
“The struggle to get a decent return from cash is getting harder, with popular interest-paying current accounts beginning to offer less attractive rates.”
- See Moneywise’s weekly updated top savings accounts.
Replaced as the official measure of inflation by the consumer prices index (CPI) in December 2003. Both the Retail Price Index and CPI are attempts to estimate inflation in the UK, but they come up with different values because there are slight differences in what goods and services they cover, and how they are calculated. Unlike the CPI, the RPI includes a measure of housing costs, such as mortgage interest payments, council tax, house depreciation and buildings insurance, so changes in the interest rates affect the RPI. If interest rates are cut, it will reduce mortgage interest payments, so the RPI will fall but not the CPI. The RPI is sometimes referred to as the “headline” rate of inflation and the CPI as the “underlying” rate.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).
The Consumer Price Index is the official measure of inflation adopted by the government to set its target. When commentators refer to changes in inflation, they’re actually referring to the CPI. In the June 2010 Budget, Chancellor announced the government’s intention to also use the CPI for the price indexation of benefits, tax credits and public sector pensions from April 2011. (See also Retail Prices Index).