Rail fare price rises are to ignite a “winter of discontent”, campaigners have warned, as it emerges costs are to increase by an average of 2.3 per cent next month.
The increase in ticket prices, the largest in three years, will take effect from January 2, with travellers already hit by a 23.5% rise in real terms between 1995 and 2016.
Rail minister Paul Maynard claimed the burden of paying for investment in the network is “fairly balanced” between taxpayers and passengers.
But public transport campaigners have warned of a growing resentment among passengers having to pay more for a limited service.
“People are now finding themselves priced off the railways,” said Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport.
“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.”
The average increase in fares is the highest since January 2014, when prices rose by 2.8 per cent. Tickets went up by just 1.1 per cent in January this year.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash has described the latest fares announcement as “another kick in the teeth for British passengers”.
And in Yorkshire, campaigners say this will come as a real blow to already hard-hit passengers.
“This is going to be a winter of discontent,” said Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.
“It’s heaping misery upon misery.
“The very people who are least going to be able to afford price increases and hikes in travel costs are going to be the ones who are hardest hit.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t managing already, they are now going to get another wallop.”
“Transport is miserable in most parts of the country, and now we’ve got to pay more for it,” said Mr Sheerman. “As this goes on, there will be more and more backlash. We’ve got to fight back.”
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which represents train operators, said 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”.
Around 97p in every pound paid by passengers goes back into running and improving services, he added, while Virgin Trains East Coast said an overhaul of its pricing strategy means there will be 10,000 more discounted advanced fares available weekly.
John Hoare, of the South Yorkshire public transport users groups, said he was disappointed at the news.
“I’m sure most people would quite like a 2.3 per cent hike in income alongside it,” he said. “There are improvements taking place, and the new franchise has promised more seats and more comfort in our area. But never-the-less, people are being asked to pay more at a time when they haven’t got money in their pockets. There’s certainly resentment at that. People are being asked to pay more before they see any changes.
“If you have to stand on a train, or travel on one of bone-shakers, you’re not going to be happy at paying more.”