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Rail fares to rise by almost 6% in March

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The rise comes amid soaring inflation, the cost of living crisis and multiple days of strike action by rail workers in the run up to Christmas.

However, the rise has been capped at a level below inflation, in what the government described as the ‘biggest government intervention ever to keep rail fares down’.

Train fares normally go up in January each year, using a formula of RPI from the previous July plus 1%. However, the government said that rail fare increases for 2023 would be capped at 5.9%, the figure for average earnings growth in July 2022, well below July’s RPI figure of 12.3%.

The government is also freezing fares for January and February, so that passengers have more time to buy tickets at the existing prices. It took the same approach for rail fare rises in 2022. The 2023 rail fare increases will take effect from 5 March.

‘Regulated’ fares include season tickets on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys and flexible tickets for travel around major cities.

A ‘fair balance’ or ‘brutal’?

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: “This is the biggest ever government intervention in rail fares. I’m capping the rise well below inflation to help reduce the impact on passengers.

“It has been a difficult year and the impact of inflation is being felt across the UK economy. We do not want to add to the problem. This is a fair balance between the passengers who use our trains and the taxpayers who help pay for them.”

However, Labour described the price rises as “brutal”. The party’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh Tweeted: “This savage fare hike will be a sick joke for millions reliant on crumbling services. People up and down this country are paying the price for 12 years of Tory failure.”

Train strikes are taking place throughout December and the beginning of January as part of an ongoing dispute about pay and conditions.

‘Need for reform must not be forgotten’

David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “No one likes prices going up. In our latest research, less than half of passengers think the railway currently performs well on delivering value for money tickets.

“After months of unreliable services and strike disruption, it’s clear that too many passengers are not getting a value for money service. Capping fares below inflation and the delay until March is welcome and will go some way to easing the pain, but the need for reform of fares and ticketing in the longer-term must not be forgotten.”