In Brief

Will 1.6% rail fare rise keep commuters away from offices?

Government may delay the planned increase amid concern over low train passenger numbers

The government’s push to persuade staff to return to their workplaces is under threat from a planned 1.6% hike in rail season ticket fares from next year.

As the London Evening Standard reports, “the cap on the annual rise in most regulated fares is linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation”, which stood at 1%, the Office for National Statistics announced today.

However, while rail ticket prices usually usually increase every January, speculation is growing that the government may delay the 2021 rise amid concerns over low passenger numbers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), only one in three workers have returned to their offices post-lockdown, and rail usage has dropped to 23% of pre-Covid numbers.

‘Blow for commuters’ 

The planned rise in season ticket prices would see the annual cost of rail travel between London and Brighton increase by £80 to £5,060, while the Edinburgh to Glasgow fare could increase by £67 to £4,267, says Sky News.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at  investment platform AJ Bell, said: “The leap in inflation in the past month is a blow for commuters. While lots of people have ditched the daily commute and are still working from home, it’s unlikely that will still be happening at the same scale by next year when price rises come in.” 

Earlier this week, Transport Focus urged the government to cut rail fares “to entice travellers back onto trains”, The Guardian reports. 

The passenger watchdog’s chief executive, Anthony Smith, said: “The government needs to get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style ‘bundles’, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board. 

“Like the government’s restaurant deal, we need a ‘head out to help out’ campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.” 

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