Rail fares to increase by 3.8% in March
The latest increase is less than some feared after fares went up above the RPI inflation rate in March this year. The current retail price inflation is 7.1%.
Until the pandemic, fares were raised in January each year by a formula based on the RPI rate of the previous July, six months beforehand. But in 2022, the increase will take place in March, giving passengers more time to purchase cheaper flexible and season tickets at the existing rate.
Taxpayers have already invested more than £14bn to keep services running during the pandemic. The government said the rise will help meet some of these costs and will also help pay for the service increases and improvements on many lines.
To further support those returning to trains, the ‘Book with Confidence’ scheme has been extended. This means that until 31 March 2022, passengers can change their travel plans up until the evening before departure without being charged a fee, or cancel their tickets completely and receive refunds in the form of rail vouchers.
The government has also announced that the recently launched flexible season ticket has already been purchased by more than 100,000 passengers. This new product offers regular passengers the potential to save hundreds of pounds and far greater flexibility for those travelling two or three days a week.
Andy Bagnall, director general of 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.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “As some fares rise it is even more important that Great British Railways, when it is set up, gives life to the Government’s ambition to make rail fares better value for money. The need to boost passenger numbers and revenue through innovative rail ticket retailing and offers will be vital. Keeping costs under control will also be needed.
“In the meantime, the extension of the travel with confidence guarantee will be welcome. The commitment to introducing pay-as-you-go type ticketing across the north and Midlands will help in time. More promotions and ticket discounts can pull more people towards choosing rail.”