Rail commuters will be breathing a sigh of relief today, as the government has introduced rules restricting rail companies from increasing regulated rail fares by more than 6.2% next year.
Every year, I wait with bated breath to find out how much extra I’ll be paying for my annual season ticket. And every year, the cost of my ticket increases far above the level of inflation. In fact, one year, my ticket increased by more than 11% – ouch.
But it seems I can breathe a small sigh of relief as next year, the government is introducing new rules that will cap average rail fare increases at inflation plus 1% in England. This means that in 2014, rail fares can only increase by an average of 4.2%. On top of that, rail companies will only be able to increase fares by a maximum of 2% above this level (previously set at 5%), as long as the increases are offset by reductions to other fares.
In Scotland, rail fares will be capped at inflation plus 0% – there is no flex like in England. And the fare rise has not been announced in Wales yet.
Unfair fare increases
So, next year, the largest fare increases will reach 6.2%. Although that’s still a budget-squeezing potential increase of £279 on my own ticket, it definitely eases the blow when compared to hikes I’ve faced in previous years.
I have to admit, I’d be more willing to stump the large fare increases if I actually saw an improvement in the trains I use. And it seems that other commuters are in the same boat (or train). We found only 22% of train users actually felt their service improved following the last set of rail fare rises.
According to our survey, more than half of train companies have a customer satisfaction score of just 50% or lower . But if train travel is your only choice, many commuters feel they have to stomach poor service and delays.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The government says it also plans to introduce a ticketing code of practice to make sure passengers get clearer information, flexible ticketing to help part-time workers get fairer ticket prices, and a strengthening of rules around ticket office opening times. We welcome moves to empower commuters with more information so they can get the best value ticket for their journey.
As the cost of living keeps on climbing, I’ve found the inflation-busting increases on ticket prices particularly hard to stomach. This announcement has gone some way to allay my fears over next year’s increase, but will the cap be enough to placate the millions of passengers using UK trains every day?