Rail fares set to rise by average of 3.5%

AFPAugust 19, 2014
Rail commuters pack the platform at Northfields station in west London
Rail commuters pack the platform at Northfields station in west London (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)

London (AFP) - Rail fares are likely to rise by an average of 3.5 percent from January even as British wages stagnate, official data showed on Tuesday, sparking commuter anger.

Rail users have long complained about fares in Britain -- among the most expensive in Europe -- and what they see as a lack of commensurate improvement in service.

The government has in recent years generally capped rail fare increases at the July retail price index figure plus one percentage point, although it limited the rise to just RPI in January 2014.

The Office for National Statistics on Tuesday said this year's RPI for the 12 months to July was 2.5 percent.

Despite an improving economy, wages declined for the first time since 2009, official quarterly data for the three months to June showed.

"Our most recent National Rail Passenger Survey put passenger satisfaction on value for money amongst commuters as low as 31 percent," David Sidebottom, director of the Passenger Focus pressure group said.

"This level of fare increase puts more pressure on the railways to ensure passengers get an excellent service for the money they are paying."

Martin Abrams of Campaign for Better Transport said: "By deliberately ramping up rail fares, government is hitting the living standards of everyone who relies on the train to get to work."

The Department for Transport said a decision on 2015 rail fares had not yet been taken.

"We understand people's concerns about the cost of travel and the impact this has on family budgets. That is why for 2014 we reduced average fare rises to RPI plus 0 percent for the first time in a decade," a spokesman said.