NEW year train fares are due to jump yet again with a 3.5 per cent price hike announced today with the most recent inflation figures.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the Retail Price Index, the monthly measure for inflation, came in at 2.5 per cent in July, which sets the formula for regulated rail fare increases.
Under the formula fares will rise at one per cent above the Retail Price Index, and yesterday’s announcement is due to come into force for rail fares in January 2015.
The price index is down from 1.9 per cent in June, with downwards trends including clothing and alcohol sales.
The fall has been offset by a sharp rise in the transport industry as inflation spirals in the sector.
The announcement comes after annual season tickets for rail services between Swindon and London broke the £8,000 mark this January following a 4.1 per cent increase.
The latest rise of 3.1 per cent is expected to add around £280 to a Swindon to London season ticket, and bring the cost of an off-peak single from Swindon to London Paddington to around £27.
A standard return would set commuters back around £45.50, with a first class return coming in at £128.
Services between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads is set to rise to £32 for a standard return, and a return from Great Bedwyn to London Paddington will come in at £34.
Chris Watts, who set up campaign group Fair Fares 4 Swindon, and now works with the GMB, said: “While this is a lesser increase over the last four years we have seen an average of a 20 per cent increase, which is just more pain for people using the railways. There is a point at which we have to say that the franchise system is not working.
“We have got the highest prices in Europe, and it needs a brave governement to step forward and review the whole system. At a time when people are really hurting there are people out there making hay while the sun shines and taking advantage of the situation.
“There are all sorts of things which could be done and electrifying the railways should decrease prices as rolling stocks are cheaper to maintain. The problem is they are still heavily subsidised so we need to ask where that money is going. They are taking our money with one hand and charging more to passengers with the other, and they can’t have it both ways.”
Justin Tomlinson, North Swindon MP, said work is being done to keep prices for Swindon commuters at a low with rail fare caps at one per cent over the past two years.
“During the last two years the government rightly capped fare rises and myself and Robert Buckland will work hard to lobby for that for a third year in a row,” he said.
“This government will be committed to doing that for a third year, and the reason why is that in the last two years of the Labour government we saw hikes of more than 10 per cent in each of those years. That was not fair for hard-pressed commuters, especially when incomes were not rising. We will be committed to pegging back these rises and will work hard to make sure that is the case.
“Robert and I have successfully worked with First Great Western to make sure these rises have been below the average for the town, particularly when we found tickets to Didcot would be more expensive than those to London.
“The flexibility in the system has allowed us to get a better deal in Swindon reflecting the historically high number of commuters and we will continue to do that. We have delivered the biggest investment in the rail infrastructure at a time when we have seen a 50 per cent increase in passenger numbers over the last 10 years.”