More misery for commuters as rail fares to rise by almost 5% next year

22 December 2023, 11:28 | Updated: 22 December 2023, 12:06

Regulated rail fares are set to rise by 4.9%.
Regulated rail fares are set to rise by 4.9%. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Regulated rail fares in England will increase by up to 4.9% from next year, the Department for Transport has said.

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The increase will come into effect in England from March 3 next year.

Regulated rail fare caps usually increase in line with July’s retail price index (RPI), which was at 9% this year.

Historically the rail fare cap has not gone more than 1% above or below RPI inflation but the Government said the cap was lower than the RPI this year amid ongoing efforts to halve inflation.

The previous cap on increases in regulated fares was 5.9%, still significantly below the RPI figure of 12.3% - but it was still the largest increase to rail fares seen since 2012, according to regulator the Office of Rail and Road.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said of the new cap: "Having met our target of halving inflation across the economy, this is a significant intervention by the Government to cap the increase in rail fares below last year's rise.

"Changed working patterns after the pandemic mean that our railways are still losing money and require significant subsidies, so this rise strikes a balance to keep our railways running, while not overburdening passengers.

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"We remain committed to supporting the rail sector reform outdated working practices to help put it on a sustainable financial footing."

Regulated rail fares will be capped at 4.9%.
Regulated rail fares will be capped at 4.9%. Picture: Alamy

About 45% of rail fares are regulated by the Government following the privatisation of rail services.

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

The cap will arrive later than usual, as hikes typically come into force from January.

The Government has said the new cap is lower than the equivalent in Scotland, where prices will increase up to 8.7%.

However, Labour hit out at the announcement on Friday, branding the move “another brutal bumper rise in rail fares”.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: "With passengers facing record delays and cancellations and delays, this is an insult to millions. Labour will reform our broken railways and finally put passengers first."

It comes after months of misery for commuters amid ongoing strikes across rail services in England.

A spokesman for watchdog London TravelWatch said: "These new rail fares will see already hard-pressed passengers hit with another unwelcome price hike.

"Reform to rail fares and ticketing could not be more urgent now.

"Government needs to set out an alternative vision that makes public transport appealing - this includes affordable fares, rolling out contactless payment options, and improving train service punctuality so passengers are getting real value-for-money."

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