Campaigners have accused ministers of pricing people off trains as the latest inflation figures triggered fare rises of up to 3.2%.
The Department for Transport uses the controversial Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation to set the maximum increase for regulated fares.
This was 3.2% in July and, although not as high as recent predictions, was higher than the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure, which rose to 2.5%.
Ironically, the Office for National Statistics said that transport costs continued to make the largest upward contribution to its preferred CPIH measure, with prices rising by 5.6% in the year ending July 2018.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling is reported to have suggested to rail firms and unions that both fare and pay rises should be set according to the lower inflation measure, drawing criticism from the RMT union and Labour.
Campaign group Railfuture pointed to recent official statistics showing passenger falling from 1,729 million in 2016/7 to 1,705 million in 2017/8 and season ticket journeys down from 690.9 million to 627.5 million.
Spokesman Bruce Williamson said: ‘These prices are now starting to deter people from travelling by rail, just as we forecast. Latest figures show that the rise in passenger numbers that we’ve seen over the last twenty years is levelling off, because people simply can’t afford to have an ever larger chunk taken out of their wallets year after year.
‘The reason for this is that the Government insists on using the RPI measure of inflation, when the alternative CPI figure is usually lower. Has the Government succeeded in its mission to price people off the trains and onto our congested and polluted roads?”
He added: ‘The fall in season ticket use is the most striking, and we think it’s time for a radical review of season tickets. There’s a clear need for a much more flexible product, which suits the needs of working people who often work irregular shifts, sometimes part time, not just 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.’
Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'After a torrid summer, passengers hit by the timetable crisis will be amazed that the talk is about a fares increase! A fares freeze would benefit all passengers begin the process of re-building trust and start to bring passengers back to a railway they can rely on.'