05 January 2009

Inflation-linked rail fare rises

From the start of the year the annual fares increase on the railways took place with some operators raising their fares by around 11%, which has once again seen calls for ministers to scrap the link between rail fares and inflation. An estimated half a million commuters have seen an 8% increase in their season tickets, upping the annual cost of rail travel for them by around £300.

Non-regulated rail fares have increased even more, with the 11% figure quoted being applied to off-peak tickets, for travel at quieter times.

London fares have risen, on average, by 6% and this affects bus, Tube and the Docklands Light Railway. Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that he was forced to increase fares in the Capital in order to "tackle the unfunded legacy of Livingstone's largesse". In stark contrast to elsewhere in the country, Johnson has introduced lower off-peak fares to help keep prices down for tourists at least.

Union leaders are calling for reform in the way that rail companies can use the inflation rate of July the year before on which to base their increases, plus an additional 1%, permitted by the government. Last July, inflation stood at 5%, hence the capped 6% increases to regulated fares and when added to the non-regulated off-peak fare rises, see the overall average fare rise of 8%.

Commuters in the south-east have seen the greatest rise to their regulated fares as Southeastern was given permission to rise peak tickets by 8% in order to pay for new Javelin trains operating on the High Speed 1 line between Kent and central London - despite many of Southeastern's commuters not being able to use the service unless they happen to live along the route's length.