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Regulated rail fares, including season tickets, in England, Scotland and Wales are to rise by 1.9% next year.
Rail fares are to increase in line with July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) and will be imposed in January 2017 which the TUC are arguing is double that of wages since 2010. The government’s response was to say that wages were now rising faster than fares, while the rail industry make the point that £50bn was being spent on improving the network.
The fares regulated by the government include season fares on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long distance trips and "anytime" tickets around major cities.
In contrast (Northern Ireland is treated separately), the Stormont transport minister said that public bus and rail fares would not rise this year.
The Guardian news paper reported in January 2016 the comparison with European travellers quoting British commuters spending up to six times more of their salaries on rail fares than their European counterparts do. In their report they gave an example of a £357.90 monthly season ticket from Chelmsford to the UK capital that cost just £37 for the equivalent in Rome, £56 in Barcelona and £95 in Berlin. Even the £234 paid in Paris, the second costliest in Europe, was 30% less than the UK season ticket.
Commentators have called on the government to reassess the fare rises. The first is the use of Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than RPI to determine the increase. As we have noted the government uses the RPI which includes mortgage interest costs, rent and council tax etc to set the rail increase, whereas CPI does not.
Predominately CPI has been lower than RPI apart from 2008 and 2009 which was caused by the financial crash. It is argued that the CPI reflects the inflation that most people experience.
Many are also calling for a flexible ticket to be introduced which would save some part-time workers hundreds of pounds. It is ridicules that in today’s climate workers have to pay a higher price for flexible working which predominately affect many low paid service workers.