Rail travellers facing new year fare rises of 5.9pc or even more

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HARD-PRESSED train passengers face average fare rises of 5.9 per cent from January 2, but some tickets will go up by more.

Season tickets on Northern Rail’s West Yorkshire Metro services will be governed by an RPI plus three per cent formula, which means they will be rising by an average of 8 per cent.

A Leeds to Wakefield season ticket, for example, will be rising 8.09 per cent to £908 on January 2.

An advance single from London to Glasgow with Virgin Trains will rise 8.1 per cent to £20.00. And Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said many would increase by 9 per cent.

Rail union TSSA accused the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), which announced the rises yesterday, of trying to “bury bad news” by giving “only the barest details” of the overall increase.

News of the rise comes after the Office of Rail Regulation issued enforcement notices on Network Rail for poor punctuality performance. The 5.9 per cent is a figure which covers all fares.

Regulated fares, which include season tickets, are due to rise by an average of 6 per cent, which is the July 2011 RPI inflation figure plus 1 per cent.

The Government had originally decided to increase the annual fare cap from RPI plus 1 per cent to RPI plus 3 per cent, but this decision was reversed by Chancellor George Osborne in last month’s Autumn Statement.

As the 6 per cent regulated fare figure is an average, train companies can put some fares up more than this as long as the overall average stays at 6 per cent. There is no limit on rises that can be made to unregulated fares, which make up around 60 per cent of total fares.

Atoc chief executive Michael Roberts said: “Money raised through fares helps pay for faster services and better stations.

“The industry is working together to cut costs as a way to help limit future fare rises and offer better value for money for taxpayers over the longer term.”

But Ms Eagle said: “Ministers have shown how completely out of touch they are with the rising costs of commuting by failing to stick to the tough rules

“It’s clear many commuters are facing a fares fiddle thanks to the Government’s decision to allow train companies to average out the revised fare cap across a range of tickets.”

Although rises are pegged back at RPI plus 1 per cent for 2012, the Government still intends that the RPI plus 3 per cent formula will apply in January 29013 and January 2014. This leaves passengers hoping inflation will fall over the coming months as forecast.

Atoc, in the past, did give details of fare rises for each train company rather than just giving an overall average figure for all tickets. Yesterday, Atoc in its Press release merely referred those wanting to learn about individual fare rises to the National Rail Enquiries website.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union, said the train companies were trying to “bury bad news” on the rises by releasing only the barest details of the 5.9 per cent increases.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “These inflation-busting increases show that the great rail fares privatisation swindle is still rocking along.

“Independent analysis by Government departments has proven that the fare increases are trousered by the shareholders of the private companies while passengers pay through the nose to travel in crammed and creaking carriages.”

Comment: Page 12.