Rail commuters prepare for fare increase

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Pressure will grow on the Government today to cap a hike in rail season ticket prices which is due to hit Leeds commuters in the New Year.

Inflation figures published today will dictate the amount regulated rail fares, which include season tickets, should rise in January.

Rail campaigners are predicting a 3.6 per cent increase which would take the cost of a season ticket from York to Leeds from £2,024 to £2,097.

Some passengers could take a further hit as train companies have the freedom to raise certain fares by an extra two per cent in return for limiting rises on other routes.

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “With people’s wages stagnating and in some cases falling, the expense of taking the train to work has become a huge part of living costs.

“If the Government doesn’t put an end to above-inflation fare increases quickly, ordinary commuters will be priced off the train and could be forced into agonizing decisions such as moving house or quitting their jobs.”

The scheduled January rise in regulated fares will take the total increase since 2010 to close to 25 per cent compared to a rise in average wages of almost seven per cent.

Passengers using Northern Rail, which runs the majority of local services in and out of Leeds, are already facing higher prices next month as the company introduces new evening peak tickets.

In a speech today, Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh will claim on current trends rail fares are set to rise by 24 per cent by 2018.

The Wakefield MP will promise passengers a legal right to be offered the cheapest fare when they buy a ticket and an end to the flexibility for companies to raise fares by more on some routes.

She will say: “Our rail fares are among the highest in Europe. Commuter season tickets have risen on average a painful 20 per cent under this Government, fuelling the cost of living crisis.

“Rail passengers rightly feel ripped off when they are uncertain if they paid the lowest fare.”

Amid criticism over the rising cost of living, Chancellor George Osborne intervened last year to limit the January fare rise to inflation and will be under pressure to act again to head off an unpopular increase which would take effect just ahead of the General Election.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The last Labour government oversaw year after year of inflation busting fare rises – a mammoth 11 per cent in their last full year. They have no credibility when it comes to talking about the railways.

“We fully recognise there’s more to do to bring down the cost of rail travel in Britain. But we need to do it responsibly and we can’t spend money we don’t have.

“What Labour are proposing today is an uncosted spending commitment that would mean over £100 million more government borrowing – adding more debt than our children and grandchildren could ever hope to repay.”