Rail fares set for 4.1% hike in 2014

Regulated rail fares in 2014 will rise by up to an eye-watering 4.1% in 2014, today's figures have confirmed.

July's retail price index inflation registered 3.1%, 0.2% lower than analysts' expectations. Ministers allow train operating companies to increase tickets by an additional percentage point in order to fund investment in the railway network.

The increase, which follows overall train fare increases of 3.9% in 2013, has triggered protests at 50 stations across the country, amid fears some tickets could jump in price by as much as nine per cent.

"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," the RMT union's general secretary Bob Crow said.

Britain has one of the most expensive railways in Europe, but the government says it must continue to support further investment. Campaigners argue the high prices will hit economic growth.

"One of the surest ways of stamping on any green shoots of recovery is to price people off the trains and out of the jobs market," the Campaign for Better Transport's Stephen Joseph said.

"For the sake of the economy, we should end above-inflation fare increases now and start planning for fare reductions."

The TUC's Action For Rail campaign says rail fares have jumped by 40% since the financial crash began in 2008.

It claims £1.2 billion is being "squandered" every year because of rail privatisation, which it blames for a fragmenting service, inefficiencies and private companies enjoying profits of over £300 million a year while enjoying public subsidies.

Yesterday the Department for Transport announced proposals to increase return fares in order to halve the cost of single fares, which are often very close to the full cost of a return.

"Only this government could come up with a reform to rail fares that hikes the cost of return tickets while handing millions more to the private train companies," shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood said.

"Instead of proposals that just demonstrate how out of touch ministers are with commuters, the government should act now by banning train companies from hiking fares beyond strict limits as Labour has pledged to do."

The fare increases only apply in England. In Scotland rail fares are capped at RPI.