Rail users and commuters across Great Britain have been hit with an increase in rail fares this week, as new ticket prices come into effect.
Fares in England, Scotland and Wales have today risen by an average of 2.3%, as announced last year. This increase covers all regulated fares – including season tickets and off-peak journeys – plus unregulated tickets, such as peak fares and advance tickets.
However, increases in regulated fares are capped at 1.9% - the Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation in July 2016. Unregulated fares have no such cap.
Campaigners argue that travellers face increased fares when the service on offer shows little improvement. Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, says: “It’s high time the government introduced a fairer ticketing system that actively encouraged rail travel, not penalised people for choosing to take the train.
“Wages remain stagnant and trains continue to be hopelessly overcrowded, so commuters are rightly angry at annual fare rises.”
The group says that commuters between Stevenage and London are faced with the most expensive travel costs – at 27p a minute. Those travelling from Bath Spa to Bristol are charged 25p per minute, while journeys into Manchester from Macclesfield typically cost 21p per minute. It’s calling for the Government to introduce a cap on unregulated fare increases and discounts for part-time workers.
Paul Plummer chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies in the UK, says: "Nobody wants to pay more to travel to work and at the moment in some places people aren't getting the service they are paying for.
"However, increases to season tickets are set by government. Money from fares is helping to sustain investment in the longer, newer trains and more punctual journeys that passengers want."
However, the Scottish Government has announced that annual season ticket holders will receive one week of free travel in 2017 to compensate for the fares rise. Its Minister for Transport, Humza Yousaf, says: “I have announced a £3 million fare initiative in 2017 which will give one week’s free travel to monthly and annual season ticket holders, worth more in cash terms than a fares freeze.
“Edinburgh to Glasgow monthly season ticket holders, for example, will save £95.50 as a result of the free week initiative compared with £82.80 had fares been frozen.”
Fares in Northern Ireland are devolved, and a Translink Northern Ireland Railways spokesperson says there are no immediate plans to change fares.