3 Wednesday, August 14, 2019 13:33

Rail fares to rise by 2.8% in January

Rail fares will rise by a further 2.8% in January, it has been confirmed, amid warnings from campaign groups and unions that ever higher train fares risk driving passengers off the railway.After a decade when fares have risen at double the rate of wages, the latest increase, set by the July RPI inflation figure published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday morning, will add more than £100 to many annual season tickets.

It will mean that the overall cost of train travel has gone up by 46% since 2009, while wages have only grown by 23%, according to TUC analysis of ONS figures.Fare rises will drive passengers from railway, unions warn Read moreFrances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “The last thing UK commuters need is another hefty fare increase.

We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains.”The TUC said private train operators paid out £200m in dividends to their shareholders in 2017-18 and received £3.8bn in public subsidy. O’Grady said: “It’s time to take the railways back into public hands.

Every single penny from every single fare should be invested into our railways.“The more commonly used measure of inflation, the consumer prices index (CPI), was only 2.1%. The previous transport secretary, Chris Grayling, had discussed abandoning the RPI measure of inflation and raising fares in line with CPI.

The Campaign for Better Transport called for the government to commit to the change, saying: “These exorbitant increases will cost commuters dearly from January.”Labour said passengers were “paying more for less” and promised to take the take the railway back into state ownership as franchises expired.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “It is indefensible and intolerable that many fares may, once again, rise faster than inflation.”But the government defended the planned increase. The rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “It’s tempting to suggest fares should never rise. However, the truth is that if we stop investing in our railway then we will never see it improved.

”The government has tried to turn the spotlight from rail fares by announcing the award of the West Coast Partnership to a First Group-led consortium with Trenitalia, which will replace Virgin from December. The contract award, which could include the introduction of HS2 high-speed train services from 2026 if the project survives, remains controversial, with the incumbent Stagecoach-Virgin suing the government after being barred from bidding for the franchise again.

Bruce Williamson, from the campaign group Railfuture, warned: “It might be that we’ve now reached the point where we cannot simply put fares up and expect passengers to take the hit. They will just give up and refuse to pay. They will either find another job or another form of transport.”The number of journeys made by commuters using season tickets has dropped by 12.

.5% in three years, from 712m in 2015-16 to 625m this year.The.....

News Code: 300611  |  The Guardian
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