RAIL passengers face yet another “kick in the teeth” from a predicted 3.5 per cent fare increase next year, transport workers warn today.
Long-distance commuters will have to pay an extra £150 a year to get to work if economists’ predictions are correct.
The exact fare rise will be confirmed on Wednesday when July’s retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation is released by the Office for National Statistics.
The Department for Transport (DfT) uses July’s RPI to determine the annual increase in regulated train fares, which comes into force in January.
Regulated fares — which went up by 3.6 per cent this year — include season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and anytime tickets around major cities.
Rail campaigners want the alternative consumer prices index (CPI), which is generally lower than RPI, to be used to determine regulated fare increases.
The predicted rise will be particularly galling after widespread chaos sparked by the bungled introduction of new timetables in northern England and some London commuter routes.
The disruption forced ministers to veto further timetable changes expected in December, which means upgrades in areas such as the West Midlands and on South Western Railway routes have been cancelled or delayed indefinitely.
A Which? survey published today reveals that the proportion of rail passengers satisfied with punctuality and reliability of services dropped from 72 per cent in 2008 to 62 per cent this year.
Rail union RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is another kick in the teeth for Britain’s passengers who are being robbed blind by greedy train operators for travelling in rammed out and unreliable services while the shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.
“The continuing scandal on Northern Rail is just one example of what’s wrong and the only serious solution is public ownership.”
Fellow transport union TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes warned services are in “freefall” and demanded the return of the railways to public ownership.
He said: “Justice for passengers means dropping the annual rip-off rise and also simplifying the Byzantine fare structure which privatisation has imposed.
“Better still, end this costly farce. Put passengers before profits by bringing our railways back into public ownership.”
A DfT spokesman said: “Any fare increase is unwelcome, but it is not fair to ask people who do not use trains to pay more for those who do.”
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