Poll: Do you think further rail prices increases are justified?

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio. Photo: Bill Smith

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

Rail users face another increase of around 4.1pc in fares in the new year after new inflation figures signalled more price rises for passengers.

Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rose by 3.1pc in the year to July, down from 3.3pc last month, but regulated fares are set to rise by an extra 1pc when the new prices are announced from January.

This would put around £290 on the current cost of a 12-month season ticket between Norwich and London for commuters, at a current cost of £7,184 for a standard class adult season ticket.

Off-peak day returns between Norwich and London are available for £64 with Greater Anglia, as two singles, which could increase by around another £2, and between King's Lynn and London are available for £33.50 with First Capital Connect, which would increase by around £1.

While local services such as a £7.50 off-peak day return between Norwich and Cromer would see an increase of around 30p or an £8.10 off-peak day return between Norwich and Diss increase by around 33p.

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Unions and campaigners staged a series of protests at stations across the country to highlight the increase, which will be well above average rises in earnings.

This included Labour Party supporters giving leaflets out to passengers at Norwich rail station this morning, including the party's parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, Jess Asato, and Norwich South, Clive Lewis.

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Rail Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow has said: 'This latest inflation-busting hike in fares is a kick in the teeth for the British people who are condemned for another year to pay the highest prices in Europe to travel on clapped-out, overcrowded and unreliable trains while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.

'Anyone who thinks that this massive fares surcharge will be invested in our railways needs their head examined.

'This cash windfall will be siphoned straight into the pockets of the private train companies without touching the sides. The stone-cold case for public ownership of our railways to end this racketeering is now overwhelming.'

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association held a demonstration outside the Transport Department in London, unfurling banners accusing Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker of 'betraying' rail passengers.

General secretary Manuel Cortes handed in a letter urging the minister to set a deadline for ending the annual inflation-plus fares rise.

He said: 'What we want is an end to these crippling year-in, year-out rail fare rises, starting in 2015 with a new formula, RPI minus 1pc.

'We already have the highest rail fares in Europe and we want a firm commitment from the minister to scrap the present formula of RPI plus 1pc.'

Mr Cortes said in his letter to the minister: 'The latest RPI increase means that rail fares have now been increased 20pc by the coalition since May 2010.

'That shocking rise, when real wages have fallen by 5.5pc during the same period, is made much worse by the fact that the Lib Dems went into that election pledging in their manifesto to cut rail fares, changing the rules in contracts with train operating companies so that regulated fares fall behind inflation by 1pc each year, meaning a real-terms cut.'

Next January's rise will be the sixth time in seven years that rail fares have outstripped wages, said campaigners.

Between 2008 and next January rail fares will have jumped by 40oc, compared with a 15pc increase in average earnings, it is claimed.

The TUC and the Action for Rail campaign group staged a series of demonstrations at almost 50 stations, warning that some season tickets could rise by 9pc, against forecasts of a 2.4pc increase in average earnings next year.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has this morning said nobody liked paying more for fares but the government was investing heavily in the railways.

Speaking from Nottingham station, where £130 million-worth of work is going on, Mr McLoughlin said taxpayers contributed huge amounts to the running of the railways and passengers had to make contributions, both as rail travellers and as taxpayers.

He said: 'Running the railways is a very expensive business. The taxpayer overall is contributing a lot and I am afraid that the passenger has to make his contribution. He does it as a taxpayer and as a passenger as well.'

Mr McLoughlin said he hoped above-inflation rises would end by 2015 in line with the Office of Budget Responsibility's estimates.

He said around £8 billion was raised by ticket sales and £4 billion by taxpayers for the UK's rail services.

He also said there was a 'huge renaissance' on the railways, with annual passenger journey numbers increasing from 750 million to 1.5 billion.

- Do you think the price increases are justified? Is train travel becoming too expensive to use regularly? Leave your comments below and cast your vote in the poll above.

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