The DfT’s announcement of the lowest rail fare increase for six years has failed to prevent criticism in the media and from campaign groups



The Conservatives’ election pledge to freeze fare increases at inflation will mean regulated fares rise by 1% in January. As well as being the lowest increase since 2009, the Department for Transport said last week that it would be the first time since 2003 that increases in average earnings outstrip rises in rail ticket prices.

The DfT also calculated that over the government’s five-year term, the freeze would save season ticket holders £425 each compared to the previous policy of above inflation fare rises.

However, the manner of the DfT’s announcement which described the saving as “enough for a new iPad or a weekend break” was slated by the Campaign for Better Transport. CBT campaigner Martin Abrams said it was “astonishing that the government is so out of touch with people’s needs that it can describe an increase in rail fares in terms of the cost of new iPads … these are not the concerns of those struggling to afford to travel to work”.

He added that the government needed to make rapid progress on its pledge to introduce flexible ticketing to “deliver the savings really needed by commuters”.

Railfuture, meanwhile, described the DfT’s ongoing use of RPI rather than CPI as the inflationary measure for calculating fare rises as “smoke and mirrors”. While RPI is running at 1%, CPI is at 0.1%. 

“The real cost of rail travel will again be going up,” a Railfuture spokesman said. 

Protests by the TUC included publishing research suggesting fares rose by 25% between 2011-2015 compared to an 8.7% rise in average earnings.

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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