Rail companies have faced a barrage of criticism after announcing that unregulated fares will rise faster than inflation next month.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators and Network Rail, said fares will go up on average by 3.4% from 2 January.
It pointed out that this is below the increase in regulated fares, (3.6%, based on July’s Retail Price Index measure of inflation) and October’s RPI rate of inflation (4%). However, the more widely-used Consumer Prices Index inflation measure was 3% in October.
RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: ‘The Government controls increases to almost half of fares, including season tickets, with the rest heavily influenced by the payments train companies make to government.
‘Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve.’
‘While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days.’
The RDG claimed a ‘transformation in rail finances over the last 20 years from a £2bn deficit in 1997-98, footed by the taxpayer, to a £200m surplus’.
However, Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Commons Transport Committee, responded: ‘The Rail Delivery Group tells us that most of this money will go into improving and running the railway but in recent years it’s the passenger picking up a bigger share of the tab and many aren’t seeing the benefits they were promised.
‘At a time when workers are facing a real terms pay cut, isn’t it time the Government looked to spread the cost of the railway more fairly?’
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘Increasing fares by 3.4%, the highest for five years, will seem like a cruel joke for hard pressed rail commuters who are seeing limited or no pay rises. We and others have been arguing for a freeze on rail fares this year, but the Government has ignored this call, yet has been quite happy to freeze fuel duty.’