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Rail passengers facing price hike

Rail passengers will today learn just how much their season tickets will rise in January 2015, with Labour and transport campaigners pointing out the already-high cost of train travel.

The new-year rise, determined by today’s RPI inflation figure, will take the overall increase in fares to around 24.7% during this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

And Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh will warn today of a further rise of 24% by 2018 should the Conservatives stay in power.

July’s RPI inflation figure, on which the January rise in season tickets is based, is being published today by the Office for National Statistics.

The current annual price-rise formula is for regulated fares, which include season tickets, to rise by the rate of RPI plus 1%, which could see average fares going up around 3.6% if RPI remains at its June 2014 level of 2.6%.

Train companies also have a “flex” rule which allows them to raise some regulated fares by 2% above the average as long the overall average remains at the RPI plus 1% level. This means some fares could go by around 5.6% in the new year.

In his 2013 autumn statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced that he was limiting the January 2014 regulated-fare rise to RPI plus 0%, while reducing the “flex” rule from 5% to 2%. This kept the average increase in regulated fares to 3.1%.

Mr Osborne will now face pressure to make a similar announcement in his 2014 autumn statement.

The CBT said today that while fares had gone up by more than 24% since 2010, wages had only risen 6.9% during the same period.

Commenting on the expected fares hike, Ms Creagh said: “David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. He’s allowed train companies to sting passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of over 20% since 2010, costing them hundreds of pounds.

“We can’t go on like this. The choice facing passengers is between fares rising another 24% by 2018 under the Tories, or a Labour government which will cap annual fares on every route and enact the biggest railway reforms since the Tories’ botched privatisation, delivering a better deal for passengers and taxpayers.”

In a speech in London, Ms Creagh will also say: “Our rail fares are among the highest in Europe. Rail passengers rightly feel ripped off when they are uncertain if they paid the lowest fare.

“Labour will create a legal right to the cheapest ticket for your journey, ending the confusion passengers experience. We will introduce a strict cap on rail fares, removing the ‘flex’ arrangement that allows train companies to raise fares more on some routes.”

Ms Creagh will add that Labour would reform the railways to get a better deal for taxpayers and passengers. This would include legislating to allow a public sector operator to run lines, reviewing the franchise system and simplifying the fares structure.

CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “With people’s wages stagnating and in some cases falling, the expense of taking the train to work has become a huge part of living costs.

“If the Government doesn’t put an end to above-inflation fare increases quickly, ordinary commuters will be priced off the train and could be forced into agonising decisions such as moving house or quitting their jobs.”

Unions forming the TUC’s campaign group Action for Rail are holding demonstrations today at rail stations across the country.

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT transport union, said passengers were “being lined up for an inflation-busting increase in their fares”.

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