MSE News

Rail commuters face up to 1.6% rise in fares

Commuters across Great Britain could see rail season ticket prices rise by up to 1.6% from next year, despite people being urged to return to workplaces.

The January price increase of regulated fares is capped at the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for the previous July, meaning these fares are set to rise by up to 1.6%.

Rail fares are usually increased every January, although there is speculation that ministers are considering delaying the 2021 rise due to low passenger numbers. Fare prices are ultimately regulated by the Department for Transport for England, Transport Scotland for Scotland, and the Welsh Government for Wales.

Fares don't always go up exactly in line with RPI anyway. Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said regulated fares went up by an average of 2.7% in January 2020, following the July 2019 RPI figure of 2.8%.

Which fares are regulated?

The following table shows which tickets are generally regulated (and so are affected by today's announcement) and which aren't, according to the ORR.

Regulated Unregulated
Season Tickets First Class 
Anytime Day Advance
Off-Peak Anytime
Super Off-Peak Off-Peak Day

How could rail fares rise in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

Rail fares are a devolved matter, so here's what's happening across the UK:

  • England and Wales: Regulated fare increases are capped at the RPI rate (1.6%).

  • Northern Ireland: Today's news doesn't affect rail fares, as July's RPI isn't used to calculate price changes in Northern Ireland.

  • Scotland: The July RPI figure is used to determine the rate of increase in regulated fares on ScotRail services. Regulated peak fares generally increase by the RPI level (so 1.6%), while regulated off-peak fares usually rise by RPI - 1% (so in this case 0.6%).

Save money on train fares

Here are our top tips to help you resist rising rail costs – see our Cheap Train Tickets and Cheaper Train Season Tickets guides for more help:

  • Consider if you'll need a season ticket. With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, it's unclear when some workplaces will return to office-based work five days a week. It may be possible that some people who generally buy a season ticket would be better served buying individual tickets on the day they travel in.

  • Check if you can use a railcard on your commute. We found some could save £100s by using their railcard on daily tickets rather than a season ticket. Most railcards cost £30 a year (£20 for disabled persons) and get the holder a third off many fares. See our Cheap Trains guide and Railcard Deals page for full info.

  • 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 the intermediate station. Use a free split ticketing tool to find out if you can get a cheaper walk-on single fare by breaking down your journey.

  • Buy in advance. Most train companies put tickets on sale about 12 weeks ahead. So the earlier you book, the more chance you have of getting one of their cheap advance tickets.

  • Singles can beat returns. If you're booking a return journey, check if two singles are cheaper. It may not always be the case, but it's worth a try.

  • 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.

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