Fresh hike in train fares will be a ‘kick in the teeth for passengers’

Southern train
Southern train

A fresh hike in train fares due in January has been described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for passengers, according to one rail union.

The cost of tickets has increased at twice the speed of wages since 2010, according to analysis released by the RMT union, which has been fighting Govia Thameslink Railway, the operator of Southern services, over the introduction of driver-only trains since early 2016.

The figures show that while rail fares have risen by around 32 per cent nationally, earnings are only up by 16 per cent.

Yearly increases in regulated fares have been tied to inflation by the Government, meaning certain ticket prices can be increased by as much as 3.6 per cent in January 2018.

Unregulated fares, which include super off-peak travel and advance tickets, will be set in December.

Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “The huge hike in fares confirmed today is another kick in the teeth for passengers who already fork out colossal sums to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains.”

RMT demonstration outside Brighton station against fare increases

RMT demonstration outside Brighton station against fare increases

The Government links the annual January rise in Britain’s regulated fares with the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today (Tuesday August 15).

Regulated fares make up almost half of all tickets and include season tickets and standard returns.

They increased by 1.9 per cent in January, but the RPI figure for July this year is 3.6 per cent, which if implemented would lead to the highest increase in fares since 2012.

The news will pile on the misery for passengers using Southern trains, as the network run by GTR has been beset by problems since late 2015.

After a disastrous start to 2016, caused in part by infrastructure problems experienced by Network Rail, a full-blown industrial dispute was sparked by proposals to introduce driver-only operation across the Southern network.

The changes make drivers responsible for opening and closing train doors.

The RMT has raised concerns about the potential loss of a second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.

Ivor Caplin, Hove’s MP from 1997-2005, said on Twitter: “There can not be any measure which allows @SouthernRailUK to increase any fares in January. Need better service NOW.”

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, said: “Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway, face fare rises next January. Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score – just one third according to our latest survey.

“So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.

“Why is the Government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the Consumer Prices Index for rail fares too?

“Passengers deserve a fairer deal.”

But Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group – which brings together train companies and Network Rail to improve the railway – said:

“Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to Season tickets. It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI.

“Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.”

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