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On track for 'debilitating' train fare rise

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 20, 2014

By Peter Woodman

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Chancellor George Osborne is under pressure to limit the new year rail fare rise after commuters learnt that some season tickets could go up by as much as 5.5 per cent in January 2015.

The extent of the rise was revealed in the announcement of the July 2014 RPI inflation figure which determines the January 2015 annual rise for regulated fares which include season tickets.

In his autumn statement of 2013, Mr Osborne announced he was knocking 1 per cent off the January 2014 rise and today campaign groups urged the Chancellor to make a similar announcement in this year's autumn statement.

The current new-year price rise formula limits regulated fares to an average rise of RPI inflation plus 1 per cent.

With the RPI rate for July 2014 being announced as 2.5 per cent, commuters in England will have to fork out an average 3.5 per cent extra in January.

For some travellers the rise could be even higher. Train companies also have a "flex" rule which allows them to increase some regulated fares by 2 per cent above the average as long the overall average remains at the RPI plus 1 per cent level.

This means some fares could go up by 5.5 per cent in the new year.

As well as calling for Government intervention, campaigners also said it was unfair on passengers that the rise was linked to RPI inflation rather than the, usually lower, CPI inflation figure.

David Sidebottom, director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Many passengers will be concerned about today's news about the fare rise.

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

"We hope the Government will step in again as it did last year, to ensure that train fares in England do not rise above the rate of inflation announced today."

Transport charity Sustrans said: "Last year the Chancellor showed he understood the negative impact of high rail costs on the economy by holding fares to an inflation-only increase. He needs to take action again this year."

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said fares have gone up by more than 24 per cent since 2010.

He went on: "By deliberately ramping up rail fares, the Government is hitting the living standards of everyone who relies on the train to get to work. There are the large numbers of rail commuters living in marginal constituencies."

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