7 August 2018
On Wednesday 15 August, July’s RPI figure will be announced which is used to set the percentage by which regulated rail fares will rise from January 2019 and commuters up and down the country will know how much more they will have to pay for their season tickets next year.
The current situation
Although this Government pledged not to increase rail fares above inflation in its 2015 election manifesto, July's Retail Price Index (RPI) figure, which is used to set fare rises, is expected to be 3.5 per cent, making it only slightly lower than this January’s 3.6 per cent increase - the highest since 2013. At the same time wages have remained largely stagnant, the public sector pay cap has only just been lifted after six years, and many other sectors have seen wages fall behind inflation.
In May the introduction of a new rail timetable caused widespread chaos in the North of England and on various London commuter lines, and left thousands of passengers stranded. The chaos has continued, with operators still unable to run the new timetable. The Government, in response to the May fiasco, has vetoed further timetable changes expected in December which means improvements due to come in then (for example in the West Midlands, the West of England and the South Western Railway area) have been cancelled or delayed indefinitely.
Engineering works, new trains and planned electrification projects, which passengers were told justified last year’s fares increase, have still not been implemented and there is no indication of when they will be. All this means most passengers have seen services deteriorate this year and will not see any improvements for years to come, yet will still be asked to pay more next year.
Add to this the thousands of passengers caught up in the timetable chaos who are still waiting for compensation and the fare rises seem likely to be resented even more than usual this year.
Campaign for Better Transport’s view: we want a #faresfreeze
We want the Government to commit to a fares freeze and hold regulated rail fares at their current level. The Government has frozen fuel duty for the last seven years and we think rail passengers should be given the same treatment.
Given the mess surrounding the new timetable, the lack of improvements and the failure to deliver compensation, the Government can not go on telling passengers that fare increases are justified.
We want a better deal for part-time commuters
There are 8.5 million part-time workers in the UK, a large majority of them women, yet there is no season ticket available to them which would give them a similar discount to that which full-time commuters receive. At the moment, part-time workers who commute by train must either buy a season ticket and lose money on the days they don't use it, or buy individual peak-time tickets, meaning part-time workers are losing hundreds of pounds a year.
So we are also calling on the Government to introduce flexible season tickets for part-time commuters which offer equal discounts to those currently experienced by full-time commuters. We want a requirement written into all new franchises to offer flexible season tickets for part-time workers and those who regularly work part of the week from home.
Regulated rail fares, things like season tickets and standard returns, make up almost half of all fares and increases are set by government. For many years, successive Governments increased regulated rail fares by one per cent above inflation, on the grounds that users should pay the costs of running the railway. After much pressure, the Conservatives agreed to end above inflation fares rises and since 2014, fare increases have been capped at the previous July’s RPI figure. Fares rose by 3.6 per cent this January because that was the RPI figure in July 2017.
The Government continues to use RPI to calculate annual fare increases, rather than the more widely recognised and accepted Consumer Price Index (CPI). RPI over-estimates real inflation so consistently that the Office of National Statistics stopped using it as an official measure in 2013 and the government has already switched to CPI for most other things. In the long term, we would support a move to raise rail fares by CPI, rather than RPI.
Season ticket costs for January 2019 on various commuter routes will be available from Wednesday 15 August on Campaign for Better Transport’s website or via its press office
Campaign for Better Transport spokespeople will be available for interview, for further information please contact the press office on 07984 773 468 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).