Government postpones rail fares rise decision

TODAY’s announcement of the 3.8 per cent rise in the Retail Prices Index for July would normally be the basis for a rail fares increase in January, but transport secretary Grant Shapps has postponed the decision.

He is under pressure from transport campaigners and opposition politicians to keep fares stable, as efforts continue to encourage passengers to return to the railway after the pandemic.

The Department for Transport said: ‘No decision has been made on national rail fares. The government is considering a variety of options and we will announce our decision in due course.’

Any changes would affect regulated fares, which include season tickets.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Paul Tuohy had earlier called for a fares freeze.

Following the news that no decision will be made for now, he said: ‘We welcome the news that the Government is reconsidering the annual RPI-linked fare rise to help encourage more people back to public transport. The railway is crucial to the economy and will play a key role in a green economic recovery, so we want to see rail passengers given the same break as drivers have had with the fuel duty freeze. We’re urging the Government to freeze fares for next year to help increase passenger numbers and boost the economy, as well as reducing carbon emissions, air pollution and congestion.

‘Capping rail fares at their current level would just be the first step in a rail recovery plan, with the Government needing to go a whole lot further to encourage people out of their cars and on to public transport at the rate we need to tackle climate change.’

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘Now, more than ever, it is government that controls changes to rail fares and it has yet to decide what will happen next year. While government rightly decides the balance between how much farepayers and taxpayers contribute to running the railway, any decision should be viewed against the decade-long freeze in fuel duty and government proposals to cut air passenger duty for domestic flights. Getting people out of cars and planes is essential to meet net-zero targets.’