Surging inflation in the UK means that rail fares are set to rise by 1.6% from January 2021, adding as much as £100 ($132) to the cost of a typical annual season ticket.
Each year, rail prices in the country rise in line with the previous July’s retail prices index (RPI), which was announced on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The UK, Scottish, and Welsh governments control price increases for nearly half of all rail fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes and tickets for travel around the country’s major cities.
The Office of Rail and Road said regulated fares went up by 2.7% this year, broadly in line with the 2.8% RPI figure from July 2019.
The looming increase comes as people in the UK are urged to head back to work, and in spite of calls from passenger watchdog Transport Focus to overhaul rail fares in the country.
The group has warned that rail services will face a continued fall-off in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic if prices rise yet again in January.
Chief executive Anthony Smith has said that the UK needs a rail fares system that fits “the way we live and travel now.”
The current system, which sees many rail users purchase annual season tickets, is more in line with one “designed for city gents in the last century,” he said.
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Noting that Transport Focus research indicated that almost two in three former rail commuters expected to continue working from home, Smith said the government “must go above and beyond a fares freeze” and prompt rail firms to introduce lower fares, bundles, and flexible season tickets.
While transport ministry figures suggested that car use has returned to normal levels, the use of rail services is still more than a third lower than what it was prior to the pandemic.
The climb in the RPI comes as rising fuel prices unexpectedly pushed the headline inflation rate, known as the consumer price index, to 1% in July, as businesses across the UK continued to emerge from the country’s sweeping coronavirus lockdown.