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Rail price hike protests expected as commuters face £208 ticket increase

Season ticket holders face a 3.1% increase in annual fares from January  Picture: NEIL PERRY

Season ticket holders face a 3.1% increase in annual fares from January Picture: NEIL PERRY

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Campaigners are expected to protest against rising rail fares as many commuters return to work from the Christmas holidays.

From Wednesday, fare hikes will see season ticket holders pay £208 more for annual travel between Ipswich and London.

The average price for regulated tickets on Greater Anglia trains, including season tickets, off-peak returns and anytime prices, will rise by 3.1% set by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation rate and in line with the average increase across the country.

It means an annual season ticket from Ipswich to London will rise to £6,548 from January 2.

Fares for other advance tickets are being frozen by the firm, which said the increases apply to government-regulated fares and come as costs rise with inflation.

Nationwide rises attracted anger from unions and concern from user groups reopening calls for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes housing costs, to be used to set fares.

The TUC said UK passengers now spend up to five times as much as other Europeans with someone going from Chelmsford to London spending 13% of average earnings on a monthly season ticket, compared with 2% for a similar commute in France.

Rail union leaders, politicians and campaigners are expected to protest outside stations including King’s Cross, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Norwich and Birmingham.

Protests are set to take place from as early as 6.45am and follow similar planned demonstrations after the Department for Transport used the July RPI measure of inflation to set the cap on regulated train fare rises.

Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, said fares had “raced ahead” of incomes since 2004, while motoring costs stayed static, partly thanks to the Government’s freeze on fuel duty.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, called for a “fairer, clearer fares formula” based on the CPI measure.

The rises come as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announces a railcard to extend child fares for the new academic year, and as a railcard for those aged 26-30 goes on general sale.

He claimed the Government’s “record investment” in rail will help passengers get “frequent, affordable and reliable journeys”.

Labour has pledged to return railways to public ownership and called for prices to be frozen on the worst performing routes.

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