UK rail users could face a 3.6% increase in rail fares from January 2018, with commuters set to be worst-hit by the rise in ticket prices.
Train operators can raise fares by as much as the Retail Prices Index (RPI) figure for July. This figure, now at 3.6%, is the highest it has been since it reached 5% in 2011. However, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which has gradually replaced the RPI over the past few years as the measure for changes to most government-controlled funding, remains unchanged at 2.6%.
Transport Focus, which represents the interests of passengers, has questioned the use of the RPI measure to determine fare increases. Despite this, the Department for Transport has stated that RPI is used across the rail industry to calculate the cost of running train services and has rejected the idea of using CPI instead.
In England and Wales, season tickets, “anytime” tickets and some off-peak fares will be affected by the fare rises. In Scotland rises in off-peak fares are limited to RPI minus 1% meaning that Scottish commuters will be most affected, with off-peak fares rising by a smaller amount. There are no plans for increases in Northern Ireland.
The government has defended fare increases saying they are justified by improvements to the network. A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said:
“We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers – providing faster and better trains with more seats… We have always fairly balanced the cost of this investment between the taxpayer and the passenger.”
The House of Commons Library published a research paper earlier this year which showed that “passengers have contributed an increasing proportion of the rail industry’s income relative to taxpayers over the past four years – up from 55.6% in 2010-11 to 65% in 2014-15.”
Potential season ticket increases given by Transport Focus if fare rises are implemented fully in line with Retail Prices Index:
Reading-London would rise from £4,308 to £4,464 (up £156)
Bournemouth-London would rise from £6,500 to £6,736 (up £236)
Gloucester-Birmingham would rise from £3,968 to £4,112 (up £144)
Loughborough-Leicester would rise from £1,084 to £1,124 (up £40)