Rail commuters face a 1.6% increase in season ticket prices despite many workers only just returning to the workplace.
The cap on the annual rise in most regulated fares is linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was announced by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.
Rail fares are usually increased every January, although there is speculation ministers are considering delaying the 2021 rise due to low passenger numbers.
The UK, Scottish and Welsh governments regulate rises for around half of fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.
The price hike is likely to anger and confuse many commuters, who now face the prospect of paying for a season ticket for services which they may not use as much as before the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Boris Johnson’s calls for businesses to return to offices, many employers continue to let employees to work.
Reacting to the news of a 1.6% increase in season ticket prices, one commuter at Waterloo Station said the service was “already very expensive”.
Raine Peake, 51, who works in digital brands, paid around £200 a month for a season ticket from Walton-on-Thames in Surrey to Waterloo.
She cancelled her season ticket due to working from home during the coronavirus crisis, with a view to resuming it when she returns to the office more regularly.
“The service is absolutely appalling,” she told the PA news agency, giving “cancelled trains” as the reason.
“I think it’s already very expensive, and it shouldn’t be for profit.”
Darren Shirley, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Today’s rail fare rise will do nothing to restore people’s faith in the railways.
“The Government must do more than just pay lip service to encouraging people to take public transport, it must now also provide the financial incentives to do so.
“Today’s fare rise is a missed opportunity to do just that.”
One commuter at Waterloo station said she does not believe the price increase is justified due to service cancellations.
Commuter Maria Pickard, 56, said: “It’s expensive for trains that are very late most of the time.
“I commute from Kent so we get the fast train, but when you get the other services it’s awful.
“Cancellations, not being able to plan your journey, having to leave that much earlier just in case.”
But one commuter at Waterloo station, who pays around £1,300 a year for his season ticket, said the price increase was “inevitable”.
Eric O’Halleran, who works in corporate training and commutes from Surrey to London, said: “I think it has to be done, it’s inevitable.”
The 56-year-old added: “The railways have greater costs now – they weren’t making money before all of this.
“I think it seems fair.”