Commuters in England and Wales face an average 3.5% increase in regulated rail fares next year, after official inflation figures used to calculate the rise were published today.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for July was 2.5%, down from 2.6% in June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.

As the price of regulated fares is calculated using July's RPI plus 1%, it means average regulated rail fares will rise by 3.5% in January 2015. The hike is lower than this year's 4.1% increase, but still well above wages, which recently fell for the first time since 2009.

The 3.5% rise doesn't apply to all train fares, just regulated tickets, which includes season tickets, anytime single tickets around major cities and off-peak inner-city return tickets.

There is also a 'flex' rule, which allows some train companies to push regulated fares up by a further 2% above the 3.5% rate, as long as the overall rise across all tickets is 3.5% on average. So some fares could rise by as much as 5.5%.

Unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets, are set by the train companies, not the Government, and will be announced separately.

Train fares in Scotland are currently capped at July's RPI rate of inflation, so they can rise by up to 2.5% in January 2015. There are no planned price rises in Northern Ireland as Translink, which runs the rail network, does not increase fares in line with inflation.

'Above-inflation fare increases'

The group, Campaign for Better Transport, says train fares have risen by 24.7% during the current parliament, while average wages have only risen by 6.9% in the same time period.

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the group, says: "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."

Save money on train fares

To help you battle rising rail costs, here are some of our top tips (see our Cheap Trains guide for more):

  • Buy in advance. Most train companies put tickets on sale 12 weeks ahead. So the earlier you book, the more chance you have of getting one of their cheap advance tickets.
  • Two singles can beat a return. If you're going on a return journey, check if two singles are cheaper. It may not always be cheaper, but it's worth a try.
  • Get a railcard. Frequent travellers should consider a railcard, if they qualify for one. Those aged 16-25, the over-60s, those with disabilities and adults who travel with kids may all qualify. Most railcards cost £28 a year (£20 for a disabled person) and get the holder a third off many fares.
  • Split your ticket. Imagine you're travelling from London to Sheffield. If the train stops at Derby, check whether it's cheaper to buy a ticket from London to Derby and a second ticket from Derby to Sheffield. It's perfectly legal as long as the train stops at that intermediate station. Use our free TicketySplit tool to find out if you can get a cheaper walk-on single fare by breaking down your journey.

  • Look for hidden promos. Lots of train companies have hidden promotions buried on their websites – which you won't find if you're going through a ticket booking website. For a full list of hidden promos, see our Cheap Train Deals page.

Inflation down

Meanwhile today, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation fell more sharply than expected to 1.6% from 1.9%, as a late start for clothing sales spilled over into July.

The steep fall is likely to ease any pressure on the Bank to hike interest rates.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.