09/10/2013 04:42 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Rail Fare Price Rises Restricted, But Unions And Labour Say Move Is Cold Comfort For Commuters

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 File photo dated 14/08/12 of a passenger buying a train ticket as rail passengers in England and Wales could miss out on a more-affordable approach to ticket pricing being adopted in Scotland, Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said today.

New year price rises to rail tickets in England will not surge as high as originally predicted, with the government capping additional rises put on by train operators.

Instead of being able to tack on an extra 5% to some individual fares, train operators will be limited to price rises of just 2%, so long as the average rise of regulated fares is maintained at 1% above RPI inflation.

This means that in January 2014, no regulated fare - which includes season tickets - can go up by more than 6.1%, with the average, as already announced, being limited to 4.1%.

With the new year rise being based on the July 2013 RPI inflation rate, which was 3.1%, some season tickets could have gone up by as much as 9.1% under the old "flexible" system.

But Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport union, said the move was a "con" that would "still leave the vast majority paying inflation-busting fares to pump up the profits of the private train operators".

"For a few it will feel like having your wallet nicked with the mugger then handing you a few bob back to buy a pint. Nobody will be fooled by this political stunt."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "This late running fares review is a slap across the face for millions of passengers who have seen their fares go through the roof under our privately-run railway.

"Despite the fact that walk-on fares have risen by over 200% since privatisation, there is no action whatsoever to actually end inflation-plus fare increases.

"All [transport secretary] Patrick McLoughlin is offering is to limit them to twice the rate of inflation rather than three times the rate of inflation, which have left us with the highest fares in Europe.

"He is merely offering to hold passengers' coats while they keep getting mugged every year by the same set of spivs - the private rail firms."

As well as curbing the rise in fares, the review opens the door for future innovations such as the end of paper tickets, a code of conduct for train companies to give passengers the confidence that they are getting the best deal for their journey, and a flexible approach to season tickets which could benefit part-time workers.

Mr McLoughlin said: "Today is just the start of a Government-wide programme to help hardworking people and reduce the cost of living. The Government will be announcing a range of initiatives to help put money back in people's pockets over the next few weeks."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will be pleased to hear that the amount train companies can raise individual regulated fares by has been limited.

"We have been calling for this to happen for years - it is a step towards a fairer system. This will allow passengers to plan with a bit more certainty and have confidence that actual regulated fare rises will bear more relation to the figures set by government."

Mary Creagh, shadow transport secretary said: "Under David Cameron we have a cost of living crisis. Prices have gone up faster than wages in 38 of 39 months while he has been Prime Minister and working people are almost £1,500 a year worse off.

"Over the last three years David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people, allowing train companies to hit passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of up to nine per cent. Far from addressing his failure, this is cold comfort for commuters - it has taken 18 months, delivers fare increases of up to six per cent and is too little too late.

"This announcement doesn't go as far as Labour's plans which would prevent train companies from increasing fares beyond one per cent above inflation."