Train fares to rise above inflation in England, Wales for first time in 8 years

Millions of rail passengers in England and Wales will be hit by higher fares on Monday as train fares are expected to rise above inflation for the first time in eight years.

Ticket prices will increase by around 2.6 percent, leading to accusations that the British government is “pricing the railways out of existence”, the London-based Evening Standard newspaper reported.

The price hike represents the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation from July 2020, plus 1 percentage point, according to the newspaper.

Rises in around half of fares — including season tickets on most commuter routes — are regulated by the British, Scottish and Welsh governments, media reports said.

Passengers in Wales face a similar increase, whereas the Scottish government is implementing smaller rises of 1.6 percent and 0.6 percent for peak and off-peak travel respectively, the reports said.

Examples of the potential fare hikes include a Brighton-London annual season ticket going up by 129 pounds (about 180.66 U.S. dollars) to 5,109 pounds (about 7,154.86 dollars) and a Manchester-Glasgow off-peak return rising by 2.30 pounds (about 3.22 dollars) to 90.60 pounds (about 126.88 dollars), said the Evening Standard newspaper.

Fare rises in England have mirrored RPI since January 2014, but the British Department for Transport (DfT) axed the policy due to the “unprecedented taxpayer support” handed to the rail industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The British, Scottish and Welsh governments took over rail franchise agreements from train operators in March 2020, following the collapse in demand for travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is expected to cost the Westminster government alone around 10 billion pounds (about 14 billion dollars) by mid-2021, said the newspaper.

Fares usually become more expensive on the first working day of every year, but the 2021 rise was deferred due to the pandemic, said the newspaper.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.