Northern ticket machine

UK: The government has confirmed that regulated rail fares in England will increase by 3·8% in March, in line with the July 2021 Retail Price Index measure of inflation. Until the pandemic, fares had been raised in January each year by 1% above the previous July’s RPI.

Announcing the increase on December 17, the Department for Transport said ‘taxpayers have already invested over £14bn to keep services running during the pandemic. The rise will help meet some of these costs and will also help pay for the service increases and improvements on many lines which began this week.’

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said ‘capping rail fares in line with inflation while tying it to the July RPI strikes a fair balance, ensuring we can continue to invest records amounts into a more modern, reliable railway, ease the burden on taxpayers and protect passengers from the highest RPI in years’.

He said ‘delaying the changes until March 2022 offers people the chance to save money by renewing their fares at last year’s price. That includes the 100 000 people who are already making savings with cheaper and more convenient flexible season tickets.’

Responding to the announcement, Andy Bagnall, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, said ’the government’s decision to hold fares down in line with July’s inflation is welcome compared to last years’ above inflation increase and the rate of inflation right now. It is important that fares are set at a level that will encourage more people to travel by train in the future, helping to support a clean and fair recovery from the pandemic.

‘We know the railway must not take more than its fair share from the taxpayer which is why the rail industry is working to create a financially sustainable and more passenger-focused service – that will both keep costs down long-term and attract people back to the train.’

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA union, said ‘fares rises are staggeringly counter-productive. Rail should be incentivised and the government should look at free travel – as many other countries do – as a positive way to change travel behaviour and cut emissions in our efforts to meet climate commitments.’

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said ‘this brutal rise will put people off travelling when we need to encourage people back onto trains – to get to work, to go on holiday, or just to get out for a day around our beautiful country.’

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said ‘this is not the right time to be charging business and leisure travellers more. We should be focusing on increasing customer confidence and encouraging people to consider safe domestic and international travel.’

  • The Book with Confidence scheme has been extended, meaning that until March 31 2022 passengers can change their travel plans up until the evening before departure without being charged a fee, or cancel their trip and receive refunds in the form of rail vouchers.