Hard-pressed rail commuters will have to fork out for above-inflation rises in the cost of their season tickets in the new year.
The full pain of the annual price hike was revealed when the rail industry released details of the new fares for England, Scotland and Wales which will take effect from January 2 2015.
Although the fare increase for all types of ticket averages 2.2%, season tickets are going up by 2.5% – not only well above the CPI inflation figure but also in excess of most annual pay rises.
Announcing the rise, rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said the money from fares helped maintain the railways, thus benefiting passengers and the economy.
But rail unions condemned the fare rise, while the Campaign for Better Transport called for a stop to “consecutive governments deliberately forcing up rail fares”.
The January rise will see some season ticketholders pushed in to the £5,000-a-year price bracket, while those on the long commute from Cheltenham Spa to London will have to fork out £9,704 – a 2.49% hike on the January 2014 figure.
Some season tickets in the north of England are going up by less than 2%, including Leeds-Wakefield, which rises 1.2%, and Morpeth-Newcastle, which increases 1.54%.
But on many of the busiest towards-London commuter routes, the January 2015 rise is above 2.4%.
The RDG said the average rise for all fares was the lowest for five years. RDG director general Michael Roberts said: “Money from fares goes towards running and maintaining the railway. This benefits not just passengers and businesses but communities across the country, by improving journeys, creating employment and helping to boost the economy.”
But TSSA rail union leader Manuel Cortes said: “It is time to stop this annual persecution of passengers with year-on-year hikes in fares. We have seen fares jump by as much as 245% on key routes since privatisation 20 years ago.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “The scandal of Britain’s great rail fares rip off is that today’s hike is far outstripping average pay increases and it will once again hit those at the sharp end of the austerity clampdown the hardest.”
Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Consecutive governments have deliberately forced up rail fares and it needs to stop.
“During this Parliament, many fares have risen three times faster than wages, affecting all those who rely on trains and putting enormous strain on household budgets.”
Shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood said: “David Cameron has failed to stand up for everyday working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, allowing the cost of some season tickets to rise by over 30% since 2010 – forcing people to pay thousands of pounds more to sit or stand on increasingly overcrowded trains.”
“Out-of-touch ministers might talk about ‘comfortable commuting’, but passengers on the morning commute know the reality of this Government’s incompetence.”
She went on: “The collapse of (the rail) franchising (system) in 2012 cost over £50 million, and millions more have been lost through reduced premium payments. That money could have been used to address the cost-of-living crisis, but now passengers are paying the price instead.
“The Government has no plan for the railways and won’t deliver the change passengers need. Only Labour would put passengers first by reforming the railways and enforcing a strict cap on every route.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We are taking the tough decisions needed to improve our railways. This Government has embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment for a generation as part of our long term economic plan, investing £38 billion over the next five years.
“Passengers are rightly concerned about the cost and complexity of fares. That is why last year we announced a real-terms freeze on regulated fares for the first time in a decade and this continues into 2015.
“Significantly we have also removed the fares flex for 2015. As a further measure we have asked operators to improve the information passengers receive when buying a ticket.”