While season tickets and peak fares are regulated, other fares such as off-peak and anytime tickets are at operators’ discretion
Consumer groups have warned that rail passengers on many routes face fare increases of up to 10% in January after train companies published their 2013 fares.
While season tickets and peak fares are regulated and will rise by an average 4.2% in the new year, other fares such as off-peak and anytime tickets are at operators’ discretion.
Last week, season ticket price rises were published but Thursday’s figures showed that some off-peak returns linking English cities to the capital would rise by 8-10%.
Passenger Focus, the independent watchdog, said an off-peak return from London to Plymouth on First Great Western would be rising 8.3% to £111.50. A similar ticket on Chiltern from Birmingham to London rises 10% to £27.50. An anytime return from London to Norwich will now be 9.2% dearer at £107.70.
Passenger Focus chief executive, Anthony Smith, said: “It’s disappointing that the restraint shown on season ticket prices has not been extended to all off-peak and anytime fares.”
The Association of Train Operating Companies claimed that the average fare rise was 3.9%, although it admitted that this covers all tickets and is not weighted by numbers of passengers or the length of the route.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of Atoc, said: “Fare rises are determined largely by government policy. Railway funding can only come from the taxpayer or from the passenger, and the government’s policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train. “We know nobody likes paying more for their journey, especially to go to work. Train companies will continue working with the rest of the industry to become more cost efficient, helping to take the pressure off future fare rises.”
The TSSA rail union accused firms of ripping off families and trying to bury bad news. Manuel Cortes, union general secretary, said: “Once again, they are hitting those who can least afford it the hardest, the old, the young and families who travel off-peak because they cannot afford what Philip Hammond called ‘eye wateringly expensive’ regulated fares.”
The shadow transport secretary, Maria Eagle, said: “The private train companies are being completely disingenuous. As they well know the fares that most people use will rise by an average of 4.2% and by as much as 9.2% thanks to the government’s decision to give back to train companies the right to turn the so-called fare cap into an average. It is ridiculous that Atoc won’t confirm which routes will see the largest fare rises in the New Year. Labour will strictly impose the cap on every route if we win the next election.”
Smith said: “The passenger going to buy their ticket on a cold January morning won’t be paying an ‘average fare’; they will be paying a fare that may have gone up by more than that.”
Passenger Focus research shows only 42% of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of their ticket.
Fares in Scotland, on the ScotRail franchise which has been extended until March 2015 under operators FirstGroup, have been limited to inflation-only rises by the Scottish government for both peak and off-peak tickets.