R ail fares in the UK are due to rise at their fastest rate in a decade unless ministers intervene before January 2022.
Annual increases in rail fares are usually linked to the previous July’s Retail Prices Index measure of inflation, meaning that prices could rise by 4.8% in January which would be the steepest increase since 2012.
The government has not yet given any details of the likely changes which are being considered as part of a ‘rail recovery’ package to encourage commuters back to the office and larger cities who may previously have enjoyed working from home.
The prospect of rising rail fares also comes at a time when many are feeling the pinch financially. Throughout 2021 the cost of basics such as food, fuel and utilities have been increasing and later in the year a number of Government schemes such as furlough and the Universal Credit uplift are due to be scrapped.
The government will also be facing pressure from climate campaigners hoping to see fares kept low to increase the use of public transport and a reduce emissions from petrol and diesel cars after a decade long freeze in fuel duty.
Paul Tuohy from the pressure group Campaign for Better Transport, called for fares to be frozen to reduce carbon emissions and encourage commuters to return to towns and cities. He said: “In the face of a climate emergency, the Government should be doing everything it can to encourage people to choose low-carbon public transport by making it the cheapest option, not hiking rail fares.”
In May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned that rail fares might rise as part of a major overhaul of the railways for the post-Covid era which received subsidies of over £10billion during the pandemic.
Andrew Cross from Arcus commented; “Ministers will certainly have a challenge ahead of them as they grapple with the finances of the railways and juggle the competing needs of different stakeholder groups.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport confirmed that no decision had yet been made on national rail fares and that the government was considering a variety of options.