The mid-winter will be bleaker for millions of rail travellers today as inflation-busting fare rises take effect.
Regulated fares, which include season tickets, are increasing by an average of 4.2%, with the overall average rise for all tickets being 3.9%.
Together For Transport, a coalition of trade unions like the TSSA and lobby groups like Bring Back British Rail, are holding protests at stations across the country, from London Kings Cross and Waterloo stations to Derby, Brighton and Bristol.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle joins TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes and other rail campaigners outside St Pancras station
The rise follows a miserable few weeks for many commuters who have had to contend with floods, signal failures and, on some routes, staff shortages.
Last week, over-running engineering work led to serious over-crowding on some trains.
Campaign groups have pointed out today's increase is the 10th successive above-inflation rise, with some rail season ticket holders seeing their fares rise by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said its research showed that in the last decade London commuters have seen:
- Average season ticket costs increase by £1,300;
- Fares grow 20% faster than wages;
- Average costs in real terms increasing by £360.
Also, the TUC has said that fares have risen far faster than wages since the recession in 2008.
Train companies can put some season tickets up by more than 4.2% as long as the overall average does not exceed 4.2%.
So, for example, a Leeds to Wakefield season ticket is rising 6.16%, while a Ludlow to Hereford season ticket is increasing 5.28%.
Some Kent commuters are also facing above-average rises, with season tickets to London from Ramsgate, Folkestone, Canterbury, Deal and Dover all going up by around 4.8%.
Some travellers will escape the worst of the increases. Those commuting to London from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, for example, will only have to pay 3.18% more for their season tickets.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said it recognised nobody liked paying more for their journey.
But it added that railway funding could only come from taxpayers or from passengers "and the Government's policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train".
Transport Minister Norman Baker said the Government had reduced fare rises planned for January 2013 and January 2014 from RPI plus 3% to RPI plus 1%.
He added: "We are engaged in the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century and it is only right that the passenger, as well as the taxpayer, contributes towards that.
"In the longer term, we are determined to reduce the cost of running the railways so that we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises."
Labour highlighted the fact that some season tickets are allowed to rise by more than the 4.2% average.
Train fares are going up for the 10th successive time
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "David Cameron misled commuters when he promised to cap fare rises at 1% above inflation.
"Many commuters have faced a nasty new year shock as they discover fares have gone up by as much as 9.2%.
"The Government should come clean with commuters that this is a direct result of their decision to cave in to pressure from the private train companies to let them hike ticket prices beyond the so-called cap."
Campaign group Railfuture said that some fares could be going up by around 11% or 12%, "with no perceptible improvement in service".
Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "The impact of successive Government's policies on rail fares is appalling.
"It's truly shocking that we have deliberately made getting the train to work an extravagance that many struggle to afford. The time has come not just to stop the rises but to reduce fares."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "I understand the frustration felt by many commuters going back to work today.
"At a time when real wages are falling and household budgets are being squeezed, rail travellers are being forced to endure yet another year of inflation-busting fare increases.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "We understand commuters don't like to pay more to travel to work but it is the Government, not train companies, that decides how much season tickets should rise on average each year.
"Successive governments have required train companies to increase the average price of season tickets every January since 2004 by more than inflation.
From tomorrow, fares are also going up by an average of 4.2% on the Underground and on London buses.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "Further investment on the transport network will help us to provide faster, more frequent and reliable journeys for Londoners and is crucial to the economic development and growth that is so vital to our great city."
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