Train passengers to be hit by largest fares hike in nearly a decade

Passengers wait to board a train at Ashford Railway Station in Kent. Credit: PA

Britain's train passengers will be hit with the largest rail fares rise in nearly a decade when prices are hiked next year.

The Department for Transport announced that ticket prices will go up by 3.8% from March 1.

That's in line with July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation but is the steepest increase since January 2013, according to figures from industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

This year’s rise in fares in England and Wales was based on the previous July’s RPI plus one percentage point.

The Scottish government imposed smaller rises for some journeys. It has not announced its plan for 2022.

How much more will my ticket be?

Looking at an increase of 3.8% (the maximum allowed under the cap) here's how the cost of annual season tickets bought today and after the rise compares.

It does not include the price paid if within-London travelcards are also purchased for Tube and bus journeys in the capital.

(Route - today cost - cost after 3.8% hike - cost increase)

Woking to London – £3,528 – £3,662 – £134

Tweedbank to Edinburgh – £2,948 – £3,060 – £112

Brighton to London (any route) – £5,108 – £5,302 – £194

Whitehaven to Carlisle – £2,084 – £2,163 – £79

Neath to Cardiff – £1,852 – £1,922 – £70

Welwyn Garden City to London – £3,180 – £3,300 – £153

Liverpool to Manchester (any route) – £2,760 – £2,865 – £105

Gloucester to Birmingham (any route) – £4,468 – £4,638 – £170

Bangor to Llandudno – £1,232 – £1,279 – £47

Edinburgh to Glasgow (any route) – £4,268 – £4,430 – £162

Average rail fares increased in real terms by 21% between January 1995 and January 2019, Office of Rail and Road figures show Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Increases are normally implemented on the first working day of every year, but have been delayed until March since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: "Capping rail fares in line with inflation while tying it to the July RPI strikes a fair balance, ensuring we can continue to invest record amounts into a more modern, reliable railway, ease the burden on taxpayers and protect passengers from the highest RPI in years.

"Delaying the changes until March 2022 offers people the chance to save money by renewing their fares at last year’s price.

"That includes the 100,000 people who are already making savings with cheaper and more convenient flexible season tickets."

The DfT also announced the Book with Confidence scheme will be extended until March 31 2022.

This allows passengers to change their travel plans up until the night before departure, without being charged a fee, or cancel their tickets and receive a refund in the form of rail vouchers.

A man wears a face mask at Leeds station, as train services increase as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Credit: PA

Andy Bagnall, director-general of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "The government’s decision to hold fares down in line with July’s inflation is welcome compared to last year’s above-inflation increase and the rate of inflation right now.

"It is important that fares are set at a level that will encourage more people to travel by train in the future, helping to support a clean and fair recovery from the pandemic.

"We know the railway must not take more than its fair share from the taxpayer, which is why the rail industry is working to create a financially sustainable and more passenger-focused service that will both keep costs down long-term and attract people back to the train."

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: "This brutal Tory fare hike will be a nightmare before Christmas for millions of passengers.

"Families already facing soaring taxes and bills will now be clobbered with an eye-watering rise in the cost of the daily commute."

Rail union the Transport Salaried Staffs Association accused the government of being "hell-bent on discouraging rail travel", claiming the fares increase will "put yet more people off and price many out of rail travel completely".

The RDG said on Wednesday that demand for rail travel has fallen to a five-month low following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Fares for rail services in Northern Ireland are set by state-owned operator Translink, which does not use RPI.