Train commuters face 1.6% season ticket price rise next year

19 August 2020, 07:22

Rail commuters face an increase in season ticket prices of 1.6% in January despite people being urged to return to workplaces
Rail commuters face an increase in season ticket prices of 1.6% in January despite people being urged to return to workplaces. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Rail commuters face an increase in season ticket prices of 1.6% despite people being urged to return to workplaces.

The cap on the annual rise in most regulated fares is linked to the previous July's Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was announced by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

Rail fares are usually increased every January, although there is speculation ministers are considering delaying the 2021 rise due to low passenger numbers.

The UK, Scottish and Welsh governments regulate rises for around half of fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.

Pressure group the Campaign for Better Transport called for the 2021 fare rise to be cancelled, claiming it is "counterproductive" to efforts to encourage passengers back to the railways following the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Darren Shirley said: "Millions of people around the country are starting to plan their return to work and a rail fare rise in January is the last thing they need.

"Raising rail fares when people are already staying away from the railway will further damage the economy and the environment at a time when we need to be investing in a green, sustainable transport-led recovery.

"The Government should hold fares at the current level and prioritise the introduction of flexible season tickets for the millions of people who will be working and commuting part-time in January."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that workers must have the confidence to return to their offices "in a Covid-secure way" to help get the economy moving.

Reports suggest that most employees are continuing to work remotely despite lockdown restrictions easing.

Department for Transport figures show that car use has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, but rail travel is below a third of what it was before the crisis.

Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, claimed the decision to raise fares while fuel duty has been frozen since March 2011 shows there is a discrepancy between how the Government treats motorists and train travellers.

He said: "They're sweetening the deal for motorists whilst they're punishing the poor old rail passenger.

"We want to encourage environmentally-friendly transport, not encourage people into their cars and having congestion.

"With social distancing, people are already incentivised to get in their cars. We fear that longer-term it's going to take quite an effort to get people back into the rail habit."

Rail fares are increased every January.

The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments regulate rises for around half of fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.

This year's rise in regulated fares was capped at 2.8%.

Unregulated fares, including advance and peak long-distance tickets, can be increased at the discretion of train companies.