I understand the frustration felt by many commuters going back to work today.
At a time when real wages are falling and household budgets are being squeezed, rail travellers are being forced to endure yet another year of inflation-busting fare increases.
As well as having to shell out record amounts of money for their tickets, passengers also face the prospect of travelling on trains with fewer staff and having less access to ticket offices. They are being asked to pay much more for less.
Some season ticket holders have seen their fares rise by more than 50% in the last 10 years, campaigners have said.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said its research showed that in the last decade London commuters have seen:
- Average season ticket costs increase by £1,300.
- Fares grow 20% faster than wages.
- Average costs in real terms increasing by £360.
It added that in the last 10 years rail fares had gone up substantially in all parts of England but that there were significant differences between routes over that period:
- Annual fares from Ashford International in Kent to London have risen by more than £2,000.
- Fares from Sevenoaks in Kent to London have increased by nearly 90%, from £1,660 to £3,112.
- In contrast, fares from Stevenage in Hertfordshire to London have risen by £772 - an increase of 30%, but below the increase generated by inflation alone.
The mid-winter will be bleaker for millions of rail travellers today as inflation-busting fare rises take effect after the festive break.
Regulated fares, which include season tickets, are increasing by an average of 4.2%, with the overall average rise for all tickets being 3.9%.
The rise follows a miserable few weeks for many commuters who have had to contend with floods, signal failures and, on some routes, staff shortages.
Campaign groups have pointed out yesterday's increase is the 10th successive above-inflation rise, with some rail season ticket holders seeing their fares rise by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
Campaigners are urging an end to above-inflation rail fare rises amid widespread anger at continuing increases.
The call came as it was claimed that some season ticket holders have seen their fares rise by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
And the TUC said average train fares have risen nearly three times faster than average wages since the beginning of the recession in 2008.
The figures emerged as annual fare rises take effect on the railways today, with the average season ticket increase being 4.3% and the overall rise for all tickets 3.9%.
Here are examples of fare rises. The table compares the price of a 12-month season ticket bought this month to one bought from 2nd January 2013.
The table does not include the price paid if within-London travelcards are also purchased for Tube and bus journeys in the capital.
- Leeds-Wakefield £908 £964 6.16%
- Bishop's Stortford-London £3,560 £3,704 4.04%
- Portsmouth Harbour-London £4,480 £4,668 4.19%
- Basingstoke-London £3,800 £3,960 4.21%
- Ramsgate-London £4,640 £4,864 4.82%
- Woking-London £2,780 £2,896 4.17%
- Folkestone-London £4,612 £4,836 4.85%
- Reading-London £3,800 £3,960 4.21%
- Sevenoaks-London £2,980 £3,112 4.43%
- Aylesbury-London £3,520 £3,632 3.18%
- Bedford-London £4,004 £4,172 4.19%
- Hastings-London £4,400 £4,584 4.18%
- Canterbury-London £4,588 £4,812 4.80%
- Deal-London £4,640 £4,864 4.82%
- Dover Priory-London £4,640 £4,864 4.82%
- Ludlow-Hereford £1,892 £1,992 5.28%
- Bangor-Llandudno £1,084 £1,140 5.16%
- Morpeth-Newcastle £960 £1,008 5%
- West Malling-London £3,712 £3,876 4.42%
- Guildford-London £3,092 £3,224 4.27%
- Bracknell-London £3,800 £3,960 4.21%
- Braintree-London £3,960 £4,124 4.14%
- Tunbridge Wells-London £3,968 £4,132 4.13%
Where London is mentioned, this means travel to London terminal stations where travel is allowed by any route option shown by the National Rail Enquiry system Journey Planner where the journey can be made using only one ticket.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, has said rail passengers "are going to feel the pain" of the rising cost of season ticket prices in January.
Head of the TSSA rail union, Manuel Cortes, claimed thousands of commuters will have to pay more than £5,000 a year for season tickets because of the Government's "unfair annual inflation-plus fare rises".
Mr Cortes said:
From Bedford in the north to Battle in the south, these are the huge sums hard-pressed families have to find just to get to work each day.
Conservative and Lib Dem MPs have their own fares paid for by the taxpayer. If they didn't, they would not be so willing to vote for such intolerable fare hikes.
General Secretary of the RMT union, Bob Crow, called the season ticket price increases "a full-frontal assault on passengers in the name of profit".
Mr Crow added, "RMT will turn the poisonous cocktail of fare increases and job cuts into a political campaign that will come back to haunt this rotten Government".
Rail Minister Norman Baker said it was "misleading" to search for the highest rail fare increase and then "imply" it represents the average.
Mr Baker said:
Family budgets are being squeezed, so that is why this Coalition Government has taken pro-active steps to cut the planned fare rises from three percent to one percent above inflation until 2014.
It is misleading to search for the highest increase and then imply that represents the average, as some I am afraid will do.
Passenger Focus CEO Anthony Smith said rail passengers will "feel this pain" when season ticket prices rise in January.
Mr Smith said:
After years of above-inflation fare rises, fresh increases are piling pressure on already high fares.
The Government and the rail industry must now work together to deliver on the welcome promise to get fare rises in line with inflation.