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August rail fares announcement – media briefing from Campaign for Better Transport

7 August 2017 

On Tuesday 15 August the percentage by which regulated rail fares will rise from January 2018 will be announced 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 manifesto, July's RPI figure is expected to be especially high (around 3.9 per cent) making next January’s increase the highest since 2013. At the same time wages have remained largely stagnant, public sector workers are subject to an ongoing one per cent pay cap, and in many other sectors wages have not kept pace with inflation.

We want a fares freeze

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.

There is political pressure mounting from all sides for a fares freeze: Conservative MPs with large commuter constituencies in the south of England and marginal constituencies with large numbers of commuters are calling for Government to get a grip on spiralling fares; and commuters outside of the London commuter belt are questioning why their fares are going up when all the investment is being spent in and around the capital (electrification projects in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales ‘paused’ or cancelled in the latest High Level Output Specification (HLOS)).

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also called for a fares freeze, calling the Government’s RPI rise ‘unjustifiable’.

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 form 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 Retail Price Index (RPI). Fares rose by 1.9 per cent in January 2017 because that was the RPI figure in July 2016.

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. Just last month, the Office of National Statistics warned that the RPI rate has 'serious shortcomings' and should not be used.

According to the latest National Rail Passenger Survey, under half (47 per cent) of all passengers think trains provide value for money and only a third (33 per cent) of regular commuters think their ticket is good value. This is not likely to improve if we see the highest fare rise for five years in January.


Season ticket costs for various commuter routes from January 2018 will be available from Tuesday 15 August from Campaign for Better Transport’s press office.

Case studies of part-time commuters available on request from the press office.



For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. Read the Mayor of London’s press statement on January’s fare rises here.
  2. Read our response to the latest HLOS here.
  3. National Rail Passenger Survey 2017 is available here.
  4. Office of National Statistics warning on the RPI rate was reported in the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4747226/Statistics-watchdog-condemns-flawed-inflation-measure.html
  5. 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).