COMMUTERS have been hit with a New Year rail fare hike as the price of journeys around the country has risen by an average of 2.8 per cent.

In some areas the rise has been slightly higher, and the average increase on First Great Western lines which came into effect yesterday is 3.1 per cent.

The rail company has said it is delighted to have been able to keep the rise in fares at the target set by the government in the Autumn Statement, in which Chancellor George Osborne stated any increase would be kept below inflation rates.

But local pressure group, Fair Fares 4 Swindon, have said the town is being unfairly treated, with season ticket prices for the hour-long journey to London now soaring above £8,000.

Chris Watts, 46, a spokesman for the group, said: “There have been so many increases recently, and over the last few years it has risen well above the average wage rises.

“A season ticket to London is now close to £8,500, whereas four or five years ago it was £7,500, so it has increased considerably. It is unfair that Swindon takes the same hit as elsewhere, because the fares were so high to begin with. It affects us more than others because we are paying an artificially inflated price.

“We are a captive market. Because there is a monopoly situation in the private sector, the consumer has no choice but to pay for it.”

Mr Watts added that the fact the rise has come in below inflation is not a cause for celebration.

“They cannot bring the prices up for five years then expect everyone to give them a round of applause when you then come in slightly under inflation. Nobody is going to be fooled by that.

“It has been suggested in the past that we pay more in Swindon because we get a better service, with a higher volume of trains. But by the time most trains get into Swindon they are full and there is only standing room available.

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We strongly support the Government’s decision to limit the average increase in season ticket prices this year.

“This year and in coming years, passengers across the country will continue to benefit from billions of pounds spent on improving services.”