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Rail season ticket prices expected to rise next year despite calls to cap them due to Covid-19

RAIL commuters are expected to face an increase in season ticket prices in January, despite calls for the rises to be scrapped due to Covid-19.

The cap on the annual rise in most regulated fares is linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, predicted today that July’s RPI to be 1 per cent ahead of the figure being announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) next week.

This would push the price of a season ticket for journeys between Brighton and London through the £5,000 mark to £5,030.

A season ticket for rail travel between Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland — a journey of about 50 miles — will cost £4,242.

Regular travellers between Gloucester and Birmingham will pay £5,385, and Barrow-in-Furness to Preston in Lancashire will pay £4,327.

The price rise adds to the existing burden on rail travellers as private operators are being handed taxpayers’ money to compensate them for loss of profits during the coronavirus lockdown.

Pressure group the Campaign for Better Transport said the fare rise should be cancelled and that it was “counterproductive” to efforts to encourage passengers back to the railways following the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Darren Shirley said: “Millions of people around the country are starting to plan their return to work and a rail fare rise in January is the last thing they need.

“Raising rail fares when people are already staying away from the railway will further damage the economy and the environment at a time when we need to be investing in a green, sustainable transport-led recovery.

“The government should hold fares at the current level and prioritise the introduction of flexible season tickets for the millions of people who will be working and commuting part-time in January.”

Rail union RMT senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Passengers are yet again set to being punished with another unjustifiable fare rise while the privatised rail companies continue to rake in profits, even as they are being propped up by the taxpayer-funded Covid bailout.

“Now more than ever is the time to end profiteering on the railways by taking the network into public ownership and using the money saved to fund a fare cut and improved services.”

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