Rail passengers set for fare hike as figures show commuter satisfaction has fallen
Rail commuters are set to face a 3.5% fare increase next year with the annual cost of getting to work for many long distance travellers expected to rise by more than £150.
The exact increase will be confirmed when the July Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation is released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.
Pressure group the Campaign for Better Transport urged the Government to “commit to a fares freeze”, but economists from Investec and the EY Item Club both predict the figure will be announced as 3.5%.
The Department for Transport (DfT) uses July’s RPI to determine the annual increase in regulated train fares, which comes into force every January.
Regulated fares include season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys and Anytime tickets around major cities.
These fares went up by 3.6% this year.
A Campaign for Better Transport spokesman said: “Given the mess surrounding the new timetable, the lack of improvements and the failure to deliver compensation, the Government cannot go on telling passengers that fare increases are justified.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s handling of the railways is “now beyond a joke”.
He called for the Government to freeze fares on the routes most severely affected by the timetable changes - Govia Thameslink Railway, Northern and TransPennine Express - as a “small gesture of goodwill towards those passengers who have suffered”.
A DfT spokesman said: “Any fare increase is unwelcome, but it is not fair to ask people who do not use trains to pay more for those who do.
“Taxpayers already subsidise the network by more than £4 billion a year - meaning that 38% of our transport budget is spent on the 2% of journeys that the railway accounts for.”
The news comes as figures released by consumer group Which? show that passenger satisfaction with rail punctuality and reliability has fallen over the past decade.
The proportion of people satisfied with those areas of train performance dropped from 79% in spring 2008 to 73% in spring 2018, according to analysis of Transport Focus survey results.
The decline was even sharper for commuters, falling from 72% to 62%.
Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: “With persistent poor service, delays, cancellations and the hassle of getting compensation for their journeys, it’s unsurprising that trust in the rail industry has been consistently low and is only getting worse.
“Passengers expect increased satisfaction to come with the hike in their ticket prices, not a decade of disappointment and unprecedented disruption like many have faced this year.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: “We are sorry for recent disruption experienced by some of our customers.
“We are seeing a once-in-a-generation investment to change and improve for the benefit of our customers with 98p in every pound spent on train fares being invested back into the railway.”