Train passengers are facing being "priced off the railways" ahead of a hike to fares by an average of 2.3% next year. However, there are routes you can take to get around the price rises.
The average increase in fares is the highest since January 2014, when prices rose by 2.8%. Tickets went up by 1.1% in January this year.
This latest increase covers regulated fares, which include season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets.
Rail minister Paul Maynard has claimed the burden of paying for investment in the network is "fairly balanced" between taxpayers and passengers.
Train travellers have already been hit by a 23.5% increase in real terms between 1995 and 2016 – meaning this latest increase from 2 January 2017 will be a bitter pill to swallow for many.
However, there are ways you can try to beat the hikes – check out our Cheap Train Tickets for full info.
What can I do to avoid paying more for my train ticket?
The best way of dodging the inflated fares is to snap up your ticket before the new prices come in. Buy before 2 January and you'll still be paying 2016 fares (which will almost certainly be cheaper).
This is most effective if you're a season ticket holder and shelling out large amounts for rail journeys. But only a small proportion of season tickets will be up for renewal before 2 January – so check yours now to see if you can renew and save.
If renewing a season ticket in the next few weeks isn't an option for you, there are other things you could try. We've a full round-up of all the tips and tricks to save money in Cheap Train Tickets, but in brief...
- Book 12 weeks early for the cheapest tickets
- Spend over £90/year? Consider a railcard
- Singles can beat returns
- Grab £1 Megatrain fares
- Get cashback on train tickets
- Split your ticket, not your journey
Passengers 'priced off the railways'
Unsurprisingly, the price hike has not gone down well with public transport campaigners.
Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, says: "People are now finding themselves priced off the railways.
"The train operating companies and the Government need to work closely together to provide fairer, simpler and cheaper fares making sure people are always sold the cheapest ticket available."
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, adds: "Passengers will be disappointed that fares will rise by 2.3% – higher than the last two years. Passengers will now want to see the industry's investment deliver a more reliable day-to-day railway.
"The Government should consider setting rail-fare rises around the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead, to bring rail fares into line with other recognised measures of inflation."
What do train operators say?
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, says they "understand how passengers feel when fares go up" and accepted that in some areas they "haven't always got the service they pay for".
He added that around 97p in every pound paid by passengers goes back into running and improving services.
Some good news for Southern Rail passengers
To coincide with the fares announcement the Government has revealed that more than 84,000 of Southern rail's long-suffering passengers in the south of England are to be eligible for a one-off compensation payment.
The payout will be equivalent to a month's travel in recognition of the huge amount of delays, cancellations and disruption in recent months. However, you must've bought tickets for at least 12 weeks between 24 April and 31 December to qualify.
Southern will start contacting customers it believes qualify for a refund in January ahead of transferring payments into passengers' bank accounts.
The train operator also plans to launch a website to allow passengers to register for refunds.
Charles Horton, chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, Southern's parent company, says: "Our passengers have had to endure many months of disruption and misery due to industrial action and poor performance, and for that I am truly sorry.
"While they have clearly been able to claim under our Delay Repay scheme, we welcome this additional compensation package."
Additional reporting by the Press Association.