Rail fare increases have been branded “disgraceful” after the average cost of tickets rose by 3.1% from today.
In what is being described as “another kick in the wallet” for passengers, the cost of many rail season tickets has risen by more than £100 – despite punctuality falling to a 13-year low.
Examples of changes to annual season ticket prices include:
:: Brighton → London increasing £148 to £4,844
:: Gloucester → Birmingham increasing £130 to £4,238
:: Manchester → Liverpool increasing £100 to £3,252
Protests were held at train stations across the country on Wednesday as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the fare rises, saying they had to cover “very sharp” wage increases in the rail industry.
He told Sky News: “I don’t want to see fares rise in the way they have – of course not. The reality is though that costs do rise. Wages in particular rise very sharply in the industry.
“The money can only come from one of two places – it can only came from either the taxpayer or from people who use the railways. That’s just the reality.”
Mr Grayling also ruled out plans for a freeze in fares, such as the one introduced for Transport for London (TfL) for 2019 by the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
“The consequences of Sadiq Khan freezing prices is service cuts,” Mr Grayling said.
“He has now got Transport for London in deep financial trouble. It’s having to cut bus routes and scale back its investment programmes precisely because if you freeze fares year in, year out, it’s temporarily great for passengers but you suck money out of the system.
“That means you have less money for new trains, less money for new investment, less money for new services.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the rail fare increases a “disgrace”.
“Our railway system should work for the interests of everybody, not just the profits of a few,” he said.
“And it’s the government that has decided on this price increase.”
Labour research suggested fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages, with the party calling for prices to be frozen on the worst-performing routes.
One in seven trains was delayed by at least five minutes in 2018 – the worst performance since September 2005, according to analysis by the Press Association news agency.
Extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, industrial action and signalling failures were among the factors responsible.
Research by Transport Focus suggests 45% are satisfied with the value for money of rail tickets – with the watchdog questioning when the £10bn of fares contributed by passengers will be translated into more reliable services.
Bruce Williamson, from campaign group Railfuture, said: “After a terrible year of timetable chaos, passengers are being rewarded with yet another kick in the wallet.”
Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, acknowledged “nobody wants to pay more for their journey to work” but insisted money from fares is being used to “build the better railway customers want”.
The rail fare changes were not bad news for everyone after it was confirmed a new railcard for 16 and 17-year-olds will be available from September.
Up to 1.2 million young people will be able to receive the 50% discount on rail travel to coincide with the new academic year.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman told Sky News the price of the 16-17 railcard was still under consultation but it was “unlikely” to cost more than £30.
Meanwhile, a railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds is being rolled out nationally from noon on Wednesday.
Dubbed the millennial railcard, it will cost £30 each year and save a third off most fares.
There are no discounts on season tickets and a £12 minimum fare applies to all journeys between 4.30am and 10am, excluding weekends and public holidays.
The card must be downloaded on to a smartphone and is aimed at leisure travellers.