Rail fares increase by 3.1% despite punctuality issues

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Rail fares have increased by an average of 3.1% in England and Wales despite punctuality being at a 13-year low.

The cost of many rail season tickets rose by more than £100 due to the annual price hike on Wednesday.

Peak-time season tickets and anytime day tickets in Scotland are rising by 3.2%, while the capped increase of off-peak fares is 2.2%.

A rail campaign group described the latest fares rise as “another kick in the wallet” for passengers.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the fare increases are "not justified" and that in the long term the hike would "drives people away from public transport".

The rail industry insists the “vast majority” of revenue from fares covers the day-to-day costs of running the railway.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said a "very visible programme of change" will mean people see "a real transformation of their rail services" over the course of 2019.

He told ITV News: "Network Rail has needed changes, it's got a new chief executive and a new strategy, I hope it will deliver projects better and more effectively in future."

One in seven trains were delayed by at least five minutes in the past 12 months as a series of major issues have plagued the railway.

Analysis of historical data by the Press Association revealed this is the worst performance since September 2005.

Extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures are among the causes.

The 3.1% average fare rise is the second highest since January 2013.

  • Examples of increases in annual season tickets:

Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, acknowledged "nobody wants to pay more for their journey to work" but insisted money from fares is being used to "build the better railway customers want".

Mr Grayling has announced that a new railcard to extend child fares to 16 and 17 year olds will be available in time for the new academic year in September.

A railcard for 26-30 year olds goes on general sale at noon on Wednesday.

Mr Grayling claimed the Government’s “record investment” in the rail network will help passengers get the “frequent, affordable and reliable journeys they deserve”.

Labour analysis of more than 180 routes suggests an average commuter is paying £2,980 for their annual season ticket, up £786 from 2010, which was the year the Conservatives came to power as part of a coalition government.

The research also indicates that fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed the latest increases are “an affront to everyone who has had to endure years of chaos on Britain’s railways”.

Labour has pledged to return the railways to public ownership and called for prices to be frozen on the worst performing routes.

Rail union leaders, politicians and campaigners will protest against the increasing cost of rail travel outside stations across the country.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said fare payers are being “battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering”.

Fewer than half (45%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.

Its chief executive Anthony Smith said “the rail industry cannot be short of funding” as passengers contribute £10 billion a year in fares.

He added: “When will this translate into more reliable services that are better value for money?”

Credit: PA Graphics

Bruce Williamson, from campaign group Railfuture said: “After a terrible year of timetable chaos, passengers are being rewarded with yet another kick in the wallet.”

Increases in around 45% of fares, including season tickets, are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments.

They are predominantly capped at July’s RPI inflation figure, which was 3.2%.

Other fare rises are decided by train companies.

It has been the policy of successive governments to re-balance the funding of the railways between passengers and taxpayers.

This has resulted in a reduction in the relative contribution of taxpayers, and an increase in fares.

Office of Rail and Road figures for 2017/18 show revenue from fares and other passenger charges reached £9.7 billion.

Net government support to the industry over the same period totalled £6.4 billion (excluding Network Rail loans). Almost a third of this was HS2 funding.

The Department for Transport has commissioned former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams to carry out a root and branch review of Britain’s railway, including fares.