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January 2019 rail fare rise – media briefing from Campaign for Better Transport

18 December 2018

On Wednesday 2 January rail fares will rise on average 3.1 per cent, with season tickets rising 3.2 per cent.

Campaign for Better Transport’s view

  • Rail passengers suffered atrocious service in 2018 and today’s 3.2 per cent fare rise will only add to their misery
  • The Government’s decision to press ahead with this fare rise despite a year of delays, cancellations and overcrowding, shows a total disregard for passengers and may leave many wondering what they are paying for
  • The review of the railways currently underway must prioritise passengers’ needs and recommend a fundamental reform of the fares system and how fares are set.

The current situation

In May the introduction of a new rail timetable caused widespread chaos and left thousands of passengers stranded. The disruption continued for months with operators unable to run the new timetable. The Government, in response to the May fiasco, scaled back further timetable changes in December, which meant improvements due to come in have been cancelled or delayed indefinitely.

Thousands of passengers have faced appalling levels of service this year. Planned engineering works, new trains and electrification projects, which passengers were told justified last year’s fare increases, did not take place. Add to this that the compensation scheme for passengers caught up in May’s timetabling chaos is still ongoing, with the deadline for claims at the end of January 2019, and the fare rises seem likely to be resented even more than usual this year.


Regulated fares

Regulated rail fares, things like season tickets and standard returns, make up almost half (45 per cent) of all fares and increases are set by government. Since 2014, fare increases have been capped at the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) figure. Regulated fares will rise by 3.2 per cent this January because that was the RPI figure in July 2018.

Unregulated fares

The remaining tickets, including advance and peak long-distance tickets, can be increased at train companies' discretion, so looking at fares as a whole, the average rise will be 3.1 per cent this year.


The Government continues to use RPI to calculate annual fare increases, rather than the official, and more accurate, measure of inflation, the 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. Despite indicating it will move to CPI for future fare rises, the Government has given no date for this change, leaving passengers paying more this year. Had CPI been used to calculate next month’s increase, fares would be going up by 2.5 per cent. This table shows the CPI figure in comparison to the annual rail fare increases from 2014.


  Regulated fare rise % Average fare rise %

(regulated and unregulated)

CPI at that time %
2014 3.1 2.8 2.6
2015 2.5 2.2 1.5
2016 1.3 0.7 0
2017 1.9 1.2 0.7
2018 3.6 3.4 2.6
2019 3.2 3.1 2.5


Campaign for Better Transport spokespeople will be available for interview, for further information please contact the press office on 020 3746 2235 or communications@bettertransport.org.uk

See examples of season tickets costs for people travelling into London stations

See examples of season ticket costs for people travelling into regional stations

Notes to Editors

  1. RPI and CPI figures: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/timeseries/czbh/mm23
  2. 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).