Some Yorkshire commuters pay £1,000 more than 10 years ago after rail fare rise
It has been announced today that rail commuters face an increase in season ticket prices of 1.6 per cent from January next year despite people being urged to return to workplaces.
Labour has released analysis which shows the increase for season tickets between Hull to Leeds would then £4,499 - an increase of £1,171 between 2010 and 2021.
Over the same period, a Leeds to Manchester season ticket has potentially increased by £1,002, costing commuters £3,418.
On the lower end, even the Rotherham Central to Sheffield ticket would jump by £145 in the same time frame.
Labour said that nationwide, the average commuter would be paying £3,113 for their season ticket, which is £919, or 42 per cent, more than in 2010.
Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary said: “Decisions taken by Government Ministers are making rail travel unaffordable and discouraging people back on to the network which will be vital for getting the rail sector on a stable footing.
“The truth is that our fragmented, privatised railway drives up costs and leaves passengers paying more for less.
“Labour has long argued that public ownership of the rail network will provide better value for the taxpayer and for passengers, the Government must stop paying the profit of the private rail companies and bring the network in-house.”
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said "any increase will go straight to ensuring crucial investment," adding that "it's only fair that passengers also contribute to maintaining and improving the services they use".
The cap on the annual rise in most regulated fares is linked to the previous July's Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was announced by the Office for National Statistics today.
The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments regulate rises for around half of fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys, and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.
Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road said regulated fares went up by an average of 2.7 per cent in January 2020, following the July 2019 RPI figure of 2.8 per cent.
Unregulated fares, including advance and peak long-distance tickets, can be increased at the discretion of train companies.
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus called for a major shake-up of rail fares to encourage passengers back to the railways following the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief executive Anthony Smith said a system that fits "the way we live and travel now" is needed, rather than "season tickets designed for city gents in the last century".
He went on: "Our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.
"The Government must go above and beyond a fares freeze and get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet-style 'bundles', flexible season tickets for commuters and better-value-for-money fares across the board."
Darren Shirley, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Today's rail fare rise will do nothing to restore people's faith in the railways.
"The Government must do more than just pay lip service to encouraging people to take public transport, it must now also provide the financial incentives to do so.
"Today's fare rise is a missed opportunity to do just that."
Raine Peake, 51, who travelled through London Waterloo station on Wednesday morning, cancelled her £200-a-month ticket from Walton-on-Thames in Surrey to the capital due to working from home more often because of the virus.
"The service is absolutely appalling," she told the PA news agency, giving "cancelled trains" as the reason.
"I think it's already very expensive, and it shouldn't be for profit."
Department for Transport figures show car use has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, but rail travel is below a third of what it was before the crisis despite lockdown restrictions easing.
All revenue and cost risks from train companies were transferred to the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in March to avoid franchises collapsing.
This has already cost taxpayers at least £3.5 billion.
The initial Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) offered by the UK Government last for six months, but taxpayer-funded support is expected to continue.
Trade unions claim EMAs mean Britain's railways are now in public ownership, but that is disputed by the industry.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union called for fares to be cut by five per cent each year, using £500 million it says would otherwise be paid to private firms over a 12-month period if EMAs are extended.
RMT senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: "After well over a decade of eye-watering fare increases and with an industry in crisis, tinkering with fares is simply not good enough.
"Instead we argue that stopping the unjustified profiteering of the train companies would pay for an annual five per cent cut in fares as part of a long-term national strategy for our railway."
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“We expect any rail fare rise to be the lowest in four years come January and any increase will go straight to ensuring crucial investment in our railways.
“Taxpayers have been very generous in their support to keep trains running throughout the Coronavirus pandemic and whilst it's only fair that passengers also contribute to maintaining and improving the services they use, a lower rise will help ensure the system returns to strength.
“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on how people work and travel, which is why it’s important we make sure the railways offer more convenient and better value options for everyone. We’re addressing this by investing billions to modernise our network and overhaul fares, including widening pay-as-you-go and smart ticketing, and introducing flexible tickets to benefit those who will be working from home.
“We want these changes to happen as soon as possible, which is why fares will go straight back into funding much-needed improvements to the railways, so that passengers can benefit from better, more reliable and convenient journeys more quickly.