The annual rise in rail fares is always an unwelcome New Year gift for commuters, but this year the increase for those travelling by train will be bigger than it has been for five years.
Missed punctuality targets have not prevented rail companies from hiking the price of tickets by more than increases to workers’ salaries.
From January, train tickets will be going up by 3.4 per cent on average, even though one in nine services fell short of the punctuality target set out by the rail industry itself for the last year.
Defending the move, the Rail Delivery Group pointed out that the increase comes in below the regulated fares rise of 3.6 per cent and October’s Retail Price Index measure of Inflation at four per cent.
In comparison, the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation sat at 2.8 per cent for October and the most recent weekly earnings rise is just 2.2 per cent.
Many commuters have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations, with many pointing out that it would be cheaper to fly to Europe than commute by train.
Over the past year, 12 per cent of commuter trains have arrived at their destinations more than five minutes late, thus missing targets.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), said: “For public sector workers and many others in our communities who have had their pay and benefits capped or frozen by this government, these fare increases are another twist of the economic knife.
“The private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.”
Research carried out by Transport Focus found that just 47 per cent of rail passengers were satisfied with the value for money of train tickets.
It begs the question whether commuters should be looking for different ways to travel into work, with coaches being a viable alternative.
Increases to regulated fares are set by the government and based on the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation from the previous July, which this year was 3.6 per cent.
The majority of season tickets on most commuter routes fall into this category and therefore see these regular travellers being the hardest hit.
Anthony Smith, chief executive at Transport Focus, said: “It is time that the fairer, clearer Consumer Prices Index formula is used as the basis for rail fare rises rather than the increasingly outmoded Retail Price Index.”
Photo credit: iStock/Eva-Katalin