Rail fares set to rise by inflation-busting 2.6% next year

Greater Anglia Intercity train at Colchester

Fares for many journeys on Greater Anglia trains will be going up by 2.6% in March. - Credit: Nick Strugnell/Greater Anglia

Rail season tickets between Ipswich and London are set to go up by an inflation-busting £180 next year - but the rise has been delayed by two months.

The government has changed the rules on regulated rail fare rises, putting them up by July's inflation figure plus 1% - a total of 2.6%.

For several years, rises have been linked directly to the inflation rate.

If applied uniformly across Greater Anglia season tickets, that would put £180 on an annual ticket from Ipswich to Liverpool Street - pushing it up from £6,944 to £7,124.

From Colchester, a season ticket would go up from £5,412 to £5,553 (£141 increase), from Manningtree from £6,052 to £6,209 (£157) and from Stowmarket from £7,168 to £7,354 (£186).

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Annual season tickets from Ipswich to Norwich and Cambridge will also go up by £94 and £96 to £3,718 and £3,796 respectively.

The rises had been due to come into force at the beginning of January, but will now apply from March 1.

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The Department for Transport has written to all train operators telling them to do more work on part-time season tickets.

Greater Anglia has introduced a "carnet" system of multiple tickets - although the savings on these over season tickets are marginal.

Firms have been told these must be introduced across England by the end of next year.

The 2.6% figure announced by the department relates to regulated fares, which make up around half of fares and include season tickets on most commuter routes.

It also includes "walk on" fares for both peak and off-peak journeys.

However, it does not include tickets booked in advance - although operators are expected to match their rises in unregulated fares, because the government has taken on their financial liabilities.

The number of season ticket journeys has fallen dramatically since the start of the pandemic in March.

Even if life does start to return to normal after the introduction of mass vaccinations in the spring, it is thought unlikely that the number of commuters will return to pre-Covid levels for many years - because so many people have found they are able to work from home at least part of the time.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said delaying the annual fares rise from the first working day of January to March 1 "ensures passengers who need to travel have a better deal this year".

He added: "By setting fares sensibly, and with the lowest actual increase for four years, we are ensuring that taxpayers are not overburdened for their unprecedented contribution, ensuring investment is focused on keeping vital services running and protecting frontline jobs."

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, acknowledged that "passengers will be disappointed" about the fares rise.

She added that "governments must ultimately decide the balance between how much farepayers and taxpayers pay to run the railway".

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