English Rail Fares May Surge by 8% in 2024
New data reveals that English rail fares could increase by as much as 8% in 2024 if the Government employs the same methodology as it did this year. The Department for Transport (DfT) tied the cap on train fare hikes for the current year to Britain’s average earnings growth for July 2022, which stood at 5.9%.
A Significant Uptick in Earnings Growth
However, statistics released by the Office for National Statistics indicate a substantial increase in this metric for July 2023, rising to 8%. While the DfT has confirmed that next year’s fare increases will fall below the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for July, which stood at 9%, the specific formula for determining these increases has not been disclosed.
Uncertainty Surrounding 2024 Rail Fares
The Government has yet to officially announce the rail fare increase for 2024. Still, if it chooses to follow the same approach as the previous year, factoring in the current average earnings growth rate, passengers could potentially face significant fare hikes.
Calls for a Freeze on Rail Fares
Norman Baker, director of external affairs at the Campaign for Better Transport and former Liberal Democrat transport minister, emphasized the need for the Government to consider freezing rail fares until comprehensive ticketing reforms are implemented. This approach mirrors the freezing of fuel duty and aims to alleviate the burden on rail passengers.
Government’s Assurance on Fare Increases
In response to concerns, a DfT spokeswoman assured passengers that the Government would continue to protect them from cost-of-living pressures. She indicated that next year’s rail fares would not increase as much as the July RPI figure, and any increases would be postponed until March 2024. This delay would temporarily freeze fares for passengers during January and February, aligning with the Government’s plan to reduce inflation.
Factors Influencing Fare Adjustments
The earnings growth figure utilized to determine the fare cap for 2023 reflected the percentage change in average total pay in July 2022 compared to the previous year. It’s worth noting that approximately 45% of fares on Britain’s railways fall under the regulation of the Westminster, Scottish, and Welsh Governments. These regulated fares encompass season tickets for most commuter routes, select off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys, and flexible tickets for travel within major cities.
Unregulated Fares and Operator Influence
Train operators retain control over fare adjustments for unregulated fares, but their decisions often closely mirror changes in regulated ticket prices. This alignment is influenced by government contracts introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rail fare plans for 2024 in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland remain unannounced at this time, with Translink responsible for setting fares in Northern Ireland.