Outrage as rail fares increase by 2.3%, 'pricing people off railways'

The yearly rise in train fares has been described by public transport campaigners as "another kick in the teeth" for rail passengers.

The average increase of 2.3% across Britain came into force on Monday morning, although figures vary between operators.

The overall rise is the highest since January 2014, when fares increased by 2.8%.

Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Today's fare rises are another kick in the teeth for long-suffering rail passengers.

"Many experienced a less frequent and more overcrowded service last year, and now they are required to pay more for the same this year. The whole fares system is completely unfair and its high time the Government overhauled it."

Bruce Williamson, of independent campaign group Railfuture, said: "Our walk-on rail fares are already the most eye-watering in Europe, and with fuel duty frozen for motorists for the fifth year on the trot, it can't be denied that people are being priced off the railways."

The Government uses the previous July's Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares, which was 1.9% and are around 40% of all tickets.

Train operating companies set their own fares for other tickets, but are bound by competition rules.

Mr Williamson urged the government to use the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead, saying it is "more accurate" for measuring inflation.

According to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, around 97p in every pound paid by passengers goes back into improving and running services.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: "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."

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says the government is delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme in a century. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for more than a century, providing more seats and services.

"We have always fairly balanced the cost of this investment between the taxpayer and the passenger."

Analysis by Labour found that the average commuter is paying over £594 more for a season ticket than when the Conservatives came into power.

The analysis looked at fares on nearly 200 routes, and found that some commuters, such as those travelling between London Euston and Birmingham, are paying over £2,000 more to travel to work than in 2010.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: "Fares have risen more than three times faster than wages and passengers on some routes have also been hit by 'stealth fare rises' of up to 162%.

"Passengers were always told that higher fares were necessary to fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed by years and essential maintenance works have been put on hold.

"The railways need reforms that could be implemented if public ownership was extended to passenger services, but ministers are persisting with a failed model for purely ideological reasons."