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Train passengers could be hit with the largest fare rise in a decade

Rail passengers in England and Wales could face ticket price hikes of up to 4.8% next year, which would make it the largest rise in a decade. Meanwhile, those in Scotland could see increases of 3.8% if fares continue to be linked to July's retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation. 

Annual increases to regulated rail fares, such as season tickets and off-peak tickets, are usually linked to the previous July’s RPI measure of inflation with the changes taking force the following January. Given July's RPI was today confirmed as 3.8% by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), it could mean hefty price rises for commuters next year. 

However, an announcement on what will happen to regulated fares has to be confirmed by the devolved governments. Due to the coronavirus crisis, the usual January price hikes didn't take force until March this year, with a decision on the rises not being confirmed until December 2020. Meanwhile, the cap on fares in England and Wales also rose to RPI + 1% this year as rail use plummeted as many commuters worked from home.

You can also read our Cheap Train Tickets and Cheap Season Tickets guides for help finding hidden fares and cutting costs.

Regulated rail fares includes season tickets and anytime fares

The following table shows which tickets are generally regulated (and so are affected by today's announcement) and which aren't:

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

Regulated rail fare rises are calculated differently across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Regulated rail fares are a devolved matter and it's up to the Department for Transport for England, Transport Scotland, the Welsh government and Translink of Northern Ireland to determine fares. Here are their current policies: 

  • England and Wales: This year, regulated fare increases were capped at RPI + 1%. This would mean an increase of 4.8% based on today's figures. Previously though, they'd been capped at the previous July's RPI, which would mean an increase of 3.8%.

  • Scotland: Regulated peak fares increased by the July RPI this year, which would mean an increase of 3.8% based on today's figures. 

  • Northern Ireland: Rail fares aren’t linked to RPI and are instead determined by Translink, the company which runs public transport in Northern Ireland.

If the devolved governments continue to use the current methodology to calculate fares for 2022 we could see some of the biggest increases in over a decade. A 4.8% rise in fares could lead to the following hikes to the cost of annual season tickets, for example: 

  • Brighton to London (any route): Up £245 to £5,353.
  • Liverpool to Manchester (any route): Up £132 to £2,892.
  • Neath to Cardiff: Up £89 to £1,941.  

What have rail firms and the Government said?

A DfT spokesperson said: “No decision has been made on national rail fares. The Government is considering a variety of options and we will announce our decision in due course. Any fare adjustments will be considered in the context of a wider ‘rail recovery’ package aimed at getting passengers back on the network. More information is due later this year.”

A Scottish government spokesperson added: “We will consider the announcement on the July RPI figure while looking at options for future fares, and as part of wider work to create a fully operational and functioning rail network post the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, said: "We are not expecting the government to announce 2022 fare prices until later in the year, as was the case last year."

We've contacted Translink to find out if it plans to increases rail fares in Northern Ireland next year and we'll update this story when we know more.

Additional reporting by the Press Association. 


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