Rail passengers face “another decade of misery” as fares are hiked by an average of 2.7 per cent today, passengers’ groups have warned.
Some long-distance commuters saw the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100 on Thursday despite fewer than two-thirds of trains being on time last year.
Fewer than half of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to the latest survey by watchdog Transport Focus.
Bruce Williamson, of passengers’ group Railfuture, warned fares are “outstripping people’s incomes”.
He said: “Welcome to another decade of misery for rail passengers.
“How on earth is the Government going to meet its climate commitments by pricing people off environmentally-friendly trains and on to our polluted and congested roads?”
35 per cent of trains arrive late
Network Rail data shows only 65% of trains arrived at their scheduled station stops within one minute of the timetable in the 12 months to December 7.
South Western Railway passengers suffered from strike action throughout December, while there was major disruption to Northern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains services during much of 2019.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union analysis of company accounts for train operators and three major rolling stock firms showed they have paid out £4.4 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last 10 years.
Transport Focus director David Sidebottom said: “After a year of pretty poor performance in some areas, passengers just want a consistent day-to-day service they can rely on and a better chance of getting a seat.”
He urged passengers to “offset the cost of the fare rises” by claiming compensation for every eligible delay.
Stark contrast between Labour and Tory plans for UK rail fares
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said: “Today’s average fare increase means ticket prices have risen by 40 per cent since 2010.
“It shows that this Government is not serious about supporting either public transport or tackling climate change, road congestion and air quality.
“In contrast, rail fares in Germany were cut by 10 per cent yesterday. Labour pledged to cut rail fares by 33 per cent to encourage people to get out of their cars and get on the train.
“Following years of broken promises and cuts to investment and services, passengers are once again paying more for less under the Tories.”
Jeremy Corbyn pledged to re-nationalise the railways when contracts expire if Labour won the general election and planned to cut regulated rail fares by 33 per cent from January 2020.
The Labour policy would save the average commuter more than £1,000 a year, with children aged 16 and under enjoying free rail travel and part time workers guaranteed “fair” fares.
In stark contrast the hikes under Boris Johnson’s government this January have seen commuters subjected to massive train ticket hikes.
Train routes suffering three-figure price hikes
Among the routes where the price of annual season tickets has increased by a three-figure sum are:
- Reading to London (up £132 to £4,736)
- Gloucester to Birmingham (up £118 to £4,356)
- Glasgow to Edinburgh via any permitted route (up £116 to £4,200)
Passengers buying tickets for day trips have also been hit by the fares rise.
An off-peak return ticket from Dundee to Edinburgh has increased in price by 50p to £29.40, while an Anytime return ticket from Gillingham to London via the HS1 route is up £1.20 to £45.40.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the hikes, saying trials of more flexible fares would be supported across the country “putting passengers first”.
The Department for Transport will set out reforms of the railways in a white paper, responding to recommendations of the Government-commissioned Rail Review led by former British Airways boss Keith Williams.
It was due to be published in autumn 2019 but has been delayed until this year due to the general election.
Mr Shapps said: “This Government will improve the railway system to ensure the focus is always on putting passengers first.
“This commitment begins with the launch of innovative fares trials, to help explore the benefits and costs of a clearer, more flexible and fairer fares system.”
How to get cheaper train tickets despite the rail fare increase
There are numerous ways of reducing the impact of Thursday’s rise in rail fares.
When should you travel for cheaper train fares?
Train companies sell cheaper off-peak tickets which can be used on quieter services.
When should you buy a ticket for a one-off journey?
If you are able to commit to a particular train on a particular date, huge savings are possible by buying an advance ticket.
Some operators put these on sale up to 24 weeks in advance and they are only withdrawn 40 minutes before departure, depending on availability.
When is a season ticket cheaper for rail travel?
If you are making the same journey at least three days a week, then a season ticket can be more cost effective.
Weekly, monthly and annual tickets are available. An annual pass offers 52 weeks’ travel for the price of 40.
When is best to renew your season ticket?
Passengers who renewed before Thursday avoided the latest price hike.
Do you qualify for a railcard?
Many people can save a third off rail fares by getting a railcard.
Discount cards are available for a range of people, including those aged between 16 and 30, the disabled, people in the armed forces, people aged 60 and over, families and people travelling with another person such as a friend, partner or colleague.
Is it cheaper to travel in a group?
Groups of between three and nine adults can save a third off the price of off-peak tickets with most operators on certain journeys.
What about split ticketing?
Rather than buying one train ticket from your departure station to your destination, it is sometimes cheaper to break the journey down into multiple tickets.
Several split ticketing websites exist to show passengers if they can save money this way.
When to claim compensation for train journeys?
Passengers can claim compensation if journeys are disrupted, depending on the operator and the length of the delay.