The cost of regulated rail fares such as annual season tickets will increase by 3.2% in January 2019, it has been confirmed.
The scale of next year’s rise was revealed with the announcement of the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation – the rate at which prices for goods and services rise – for July.
It comes in lower than last year’s rise of 3.6%, which was the highest increase for five years.
The news was seized upon by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who said the increase was “an insult to everyone who has suffered chaos on Britain’s railways”. The party has pledged to freeze fares on the worst performing routes.
But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling used a radio interview on Wednesday morning to say he believes that, despite the rise, those affected by disruption will be compensated by more than the effect of a freeze.
“We’ve set up a compensation package for those areas [affected]… that’s worth something like nearly 10 percent of an annual season ticket and is a much bigger compensation package than ever would be covered by a [freeze in the] fare increase,” he said.
Grayling went on to reiterate his calls for regulated fares to be tied to a lower measure of inflation, the consumer price index (CPI).
″We have to make a transition in my view to CPI,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme. “We have started to take steps to move... to CPI. CPI is used elsewhere, in most of the public sector.”
The government argues that a move to CPI, which was 2.5% in July, would save commuters money.
Grayling wrote to trade unions to suggest the only way fares could adopt CPI would be to tie rail workers’ pay rises to the measure as well.
But the suggestion prompted fury from union bosses who said the change to the lower measure would effectively cap their members’ pay, potentially prompting industrial strike action on the railways.
The RMT union, which represents large numbers of railway workers, said any move to CPI for pay would merely “protect private train company profits”.
The union’s Mick Cash said: “If Chris Grayling seriously thinks that front line rail workers are going to pay the price for his gross incompetence and the greed of the private train companies he’s got another thing coming.”
Cash described next year’s rise as “the latest kick in the teeth”.
Labour released new figures which suggest the average commuter will be paying £2,980 for their season ticket in 2019, £786 more than in 2010.
The consumer group Which? said the latest rise was “yet more bad news for passengers” who had faced “delays, overcrowding and poor service from train companies.”
But the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said fares underpin “a once-in-a-generation investment plan to improve the railway”.
The group blamed Grayling for determining which measure of inflation regulated fares are tied to.
“We understand that aspects of the current fares system are frustrating for people which is why as part of the industry’s plan, train companies are also leading a consultation to update regulation and improve the range of fares on offer, making the system simpler and easier to use for customers,” it added in a statement.