Rail fares in England to rise by up to 5.9% from March, government confirms

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The rise is being capped at a level below inflation

Rail fares in England will rise by almost 6% from March, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said.

The DfT has set a cap of 5.9% for increases to fares regulated by the government - 6.4 percentage points lower than the inflation figure fare rises are historically based on.

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Fares will officially rise from 5 March and the cap will apply to season tickets on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys and flexible tickets for travel around major cities.

The government is freezing fares for the entirety of January and February, giving passengers more time to purchase cheaper flexible and season tickets at the existing rate.

Train operators set unregulated fares, although their decisions are heavily influenced by the government due to contracts introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rail fares in England will rise by almost 6% from March (Photo: Getty Images)Rail fares in England will rise by almost 6% from March (Photo: Getty Images)
Rail fares in England will rise by almost 6% from March (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “This is the biggest-ever government intervention in rail fares. I’m capping the rise well below inflation to help reduce the impact on passengers.

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“It has been a difficult year and the impact of inflation is being felt across the UK economy. We do not want to add to the problem. This is a fair balance between the passengers who use our trains and the taxpayers who help pay for them.”

The government said the rail industry is facing serious financial difficulty, which is why trade unions “must agree to cost saving reforms”.

A statement from the DfT added: “Next year’s rail fares rightly strike a balance between the needs of rail passengers and taxpayers as we seek a sustainable long-term financial position following the pandemic.

“Over the years since privatisation, under both Conservative and Labour governments, regulated rail fares have increased closely in line with inflation, never being more than 1% above or below RPI.

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“This government, however, recognises the wider economic challenges currently passengers and has taken action to link this year’s rate with July 2022’s average earnings growth, instead of RPI, and prevented an increase of 12.3%.”

A ‘savage’ price increase

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh hit out at the DfT announcement, describing the impending fare increase as “savage” and blamed “Tory failure” for the price hike.

She said: “This savage fare hike will be a sick joke for millions reliant on crumbling services. People up and down this country are paying the price for 12 years of Tory failure.”

David Sidebottom, director at watchdog Transport Focus, said capping fares below inflation “is welcome”, but waned that reforms to fares and ticketing “must not be forgotten”.

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He said: “No-one likes prices going up. In our latest research, less than half of passengers think the railway currently performs well on delivering value for money tickets. After months of unreliable services and strike disruption, it’s clear that too many passengers are not getting a value for money service.

“Capping fares below inflation and the delay until March is welcome and will go some way to easing the pain, but the need for reform of fares and ticketing in the longer-term must not be forgotten.”

Elsewhere, Norman Baker of Campaign for Better Transport said: “We must be grateful for small mercies: it is clear that the increase could have been much worse. But this is still a large rise which will deter some people from using the railways.

“This increase stands in stark contrast to the situation with fuel duty, which was cut earlier this year after being frozen for years. What the government ought to do is freeze rail fares to help passengers and encourage people onto the railways. Such a freeze could be funded by taxing fuel on domestic flights.”

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