COMMUTERS have criticised a New Year rail fare price hike which came into force yesterday.
Passengers surveyed by the Leader tended to take a poor view of the increases – as annual season tickets rose by an average of 3.1 per cent across the UK.
In Wales season tickets will go up by less than inflation in the annual January price hike, while future average ticket rises to be in line with the Retail Price Index inflation rate.
It is the lowest January increase in four years, according to the pan-industry Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
But at stations yesterday, it did not take long for the rises to cause concern on platforms. A family travelling from Flint back to Scotland said they had paid an extra £500 from last year to get the train to celebrate the start of 2014 with relatives.
The rise applies to regulated fares, including season tickets. The increase on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.
The Department for Transport said the Government understood concerns rail passengers had about the costs of fares and their impact on household budgets, which was why fares had been limited to the rate of inflation.
The department said the fares passengers pay would “continue to drive forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever”, with £38 billion invested over the next five years.
Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh said the fare rise was “a continuation of David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis”, while Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said 2014 was “all set to be another year of racketeering and greed on Britain’s privatised railways”.
Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans said: “Commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren’t increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation.”
Michael Roberts, director general of the RDG, said: “We strongly support the Government’s decision to limit the average increase in season ticket prices this year. This, combined with the determination of train companies to continue attracting passengers, means the average increase across all fares is 2.8% – the lowest in four years.
“To help the Government hold down fares in future, the rail industry is working hard to get more for every pound it spends.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: “If ministers were serious about stopping annual fare rises, they would freeze what are already the most expensive fares in Europe. Instead they plan to raise them one per cent above inflation for the next five years to fund Network Rail’s budget until 2019.
This temporary cap of 3.1 per cent is all about next year’s General Election, not about helping passengers in the long term.”