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'Instant refunds' for rail delays to be introduced next year

Rail travellers buying tickets Photo: PA Wire

A train firm will trial "instant" refunds paid direct into passengers' bank accounts or travel cards, a measure the government is aiming to see applied across the rail system.

Under the pilot, passengers entitled to compensation for cancellations or delays of just minutes would see money returned electronically - removing the need to fill out repayment forms.

The measure, which rail minister Clare Perry has said she hopes to see introduced across the country, will initially be trialled on some c2c services from next year using "smart ticketing" systems, similar to the Oyster card service used on London Underground.

Rail fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the past five years, leaving commuters "seriously out of pocket", according to a new report.

Despite it being announced today that fares would increase by only 1% in January, a study by the Action for Rail campaign showed that season tickets and other regulated fares had increased by 25% since 2010, while average pay went up by just 9%.

The government claims 2016 will see some of the lowest fare increases for decades. Credit: PA

Government plans to cap annual rises in regulated fares will cost taxpayers around £700 million over the next five years, but bigger savings could be passed on to passengers if train services were run by the public sector, said the report.

Season tickets could be 10% cheaper by 2017 if routes coming up for tender were given to public sector organisations, it was claimed.

However, speaking as fares for the next year were set to be announced, Ms Perry told ITV's Good Morning Britain she was working with train companies on other measures to cut commuters' costs.

That included plans for new part-time season tickets and the removal of "flex" structures - which allowed operators to dramatically hike prices on certain fares.

Credit: PA Wire

After a pledge in the Conservative manifesto, fare increases are now be capped at the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for July, which was announced as at 1% today.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady led the calls for a return to public ownership of the railways, saying: "Rail fares have rocketed over the last five years, leaving many commuters seriously out of pocket.

"If ministers really want to help hard-pressed commuters, they need to return services to the public sector. This is a fair, more sustainable option and it would allow much bigger savings to be passed on to passengers. Introducing an arbitrary cap on fares is simply passing the bill on to taxpayers.

Credit: PA

"The Government wants the public to subsidise train companies' profits and bear the cost of the fares cap."

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said the train companies were "milking the travelling public for all they can through extortionate fares" and backed O'Grady.

"Every penny of the fare rip-off is sucked out of the system in fat company profits, while crucial rail maintenance and upgrade works are shelved for lack of funds," he said

"We are delivering the largest programme of investment since the Victorian era so that customers get better value for money."

– Rail minister Claire Perry

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "We have the most expensive rail fares in Europe and they have risen by over 200% on the most popular routes since privatisation 20 years ago.

"We should follow the European example and run a publicly owned railway for the benefit of the travelling public, not the private rail firms."

However, Ms Perry said the government's plans to freeze fares at inflation would save average season ticket holder £425 over the next five years.