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Rail fares rise by 2.6% in England and Wales

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Ticket costs have gone up by more than RPI inflation for the first time since 2013, as commuters contemplate returning to the office.

The Department for Transport announced in December that the usual January price rise of regulated fares, including season tickets and some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys, would be delayed until 1 March.

So, as from today, these fares have risen by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation + 1%, meaning a 2.6% rise.

Typically, regulated fare rises are based on the RPI figure from July. In July 2020, RPI stood at 1.6% with commuters expected to face this price hike, not the 2.6% rise.

This RPI benchmark price cap has been used every year since 2014, so it is the first time in seven years that regulated fares will rise above inflation.

Anthony Smith, Transport Focus chief executive, said: “Today’s fare increase makes it even more important that, when travel restrictions start to be lifted, the industry is able to attract people back by offering fares that match how we know people hope to live, work and travel in future. This could mean new flexible season tickets which offer better value for part-time commuters, and other tickets based on how people want to use the railway.”

Analysis by Labour shows that season ticket costs have rocketed 43% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

The party analysed costs on more than 180 train routes and found the average commuter will now be paying £3,144 for their season ticket – £950 or 43% more than in 2010.

The highest increase is projected to be on a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston, which will have risen by £3,467 since 2010 and now costs £11,204.

The biggest percentage increase identified was between Tame Bridge Parkway near Walsall and Nuneaton, where the cost of an annual season ticket will have risen by 63% since 2010.

In Boris Johnson’ constituency of Uxbridge, the cost of an annual season ticket from West Drayton to London Paddington has risen by £637 since 2010.

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: “This government is already hitting families in the pocket by forcing councils into economically illiterate tax rises when its failure means we are facing the worst recession of any major economy.

“Now rail-users will have to pay even more to use the services they rely on. This fare hike will make rail unaffordable for many and discourage people from getting back on to the network when lockdown restrictions ease in the coming months.”