Rail fares such as season tickets are to rise by an average of 4.8% in the New Year, while cheap day returns and long distance fares will go up by 5.4%.
The rises, announced yesterday, are above the rate of inflation and sparked an immediate outcry from unions and passenger groups, who criticised rail firms and the government.
Regulated fares, including season tickets, savers and standard day returns will go up by an average of 4.8% on January 2, while unregulated prices such as cheap day returns, long distance open and advance fares, will increase by 5.4%.
But some commuters in the south-east of England will see their weekly fare rise by 14.5%, it was revealed.
The cost of a weekly season ticket from Hayes in Kent to London will rise from £24.80 to £28.50 (14.5%), from £25.10 to £28.50 (13%) in Bexleyheath and from £78.30 to £86.50 (10.5%) for commuters in Ashford, Kent.
Most train firms said the average cost of regulated fares will rise by 4.8%, although it will be 6.8% on Southeastern, 5% on First TransPennine Express routes and 3.8% on the Gatwick Express.
Atoc says extra cash needed
Unregulated fares will rise by an average of 7% on CrossCountry and East Midlands Trains routes, 6.8% on routes run by the one train company, 6.1% on First Great Western and 4.3% on South West Trains.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said in a statement: ‘The small increase in average rail fares partly reflects the fact that over half of tickets sold are price-regulated by the government, but also because many passengers now choose to use discounted fares such as advance purchase tickets, which offer significant reductions compared to full-price tickets.
‘The relatively low increase in average rail fares has been a factor in the enormous growth in rail travel seen over the past ten years, with 42% more passengers using the rail network. Passenger numbers are now higher than at any time since 1946…More than £800 million is now being spent on new and refurbished trains on CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, First Great Western, First ScotRail, First TransPennine Express, GNER (shortly to become National Express East Coast), London Midland, Northern Rail, one Railway and South West Trains.’
The Atoc statement continued: ‘Further investment is being committed to improve stations, including refurbished ticket offices, better waiting rooms, toilets and facilities for disabled people. It also provides for new ticket machines, information systems, closed circuit television and an increased number of car parking spaces.’
Passengers will be dismayed that fares are going up again
Anthony SmithPassenger Focus
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, the independent consumer rail watchdog, said: ‘Passengers will be dismayed that fares are going up again, especially as on most routes they have no choice about which train company to use…Passengers should brace themselves for fare rises from now until 2014 as their contribution to railway services nearly doubles from £5 billion to £9 billion each year. They will rightly expect a better service for this.
‘We are only being given a partial picture today. The industry has published average figures which mask rises on individual routes. It looks like Kent commuters are being hit hardest. Many commuters will have to fork out hundreds of extra pounds for their next annual season ticket.’
Passenger Focus said the cost of an annual season ticket from Canterbury in Kent to London will increase by 11.1% from £3,132 to £3,480, a rise of £348, while an annual season between Norwich and London will go up from £5,640 to £6,000, an increase of 6.3%, or £360.
An annual season ticket from Gillingham in Kent to London will increase from £2,496 to £2,740, a rise of 9.7%, or £244.
A spokesman for Southeastern said: ‘The company is operating more services, performance is at record levels, many of our stations are looking lighter and brighter, we are on course to introduce high-speed services by December 2009, complaints are down and customer praise has increased.
‘So, in return for increased revenue, good progress is being made and the quality of service and value for money we’re providing to our passengers is improving.’
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