New fares for the UK’s National Rail took effect on Friday, Jan. 2, with overall prices increasing in 2015 by 2.2%, on average.
This will be the fifth year in a row that rail fares have increased, meaning that, on average, fares have increased by one-fifth since 2010, when the current government took over.
“The Government should start by reforming the discredited way it calculates future commuter fares and get on with introducing part-time and flexible season tickets, where progress has been mind numbingly slow,” said Martin Abrams of the Campaign for Better Transport, which is challenging the government to change the way it calculates its fares.
National Rail adjusts its prices to the Retail Price Index (RPI), a figure the Official for National Statistics releases every June. According to National Rail, “between 2004 and 2013, successive governments decided that these fares should rise by on average 1% above inflation so that passengers paid a bigger portion of the cost of running the railway and taxpayers a smaller share.”
Commuters would rather have the government use the Consumer Price Index (CPI), another index for inflation also published by the ONS, which is normally lower than the RPI.
“Between 1996 and 2011, the cumulative inflation rate shown by RPI was 53.6 per cent while that for CPI was 35.6 per cent,” according to Campaign for Better Transport.
From 2010, rail fares have outpaced regular wage growth, as shown by this chart from the Campaign:
Another measure the Campaign is fighting for is the introduction of flexible fares for part-time commuters, for whom a full season ticket is inconvenient. While Boris Johnson has announced that Transport for London will set this type of ticketing this year, there is no sign of implementation on the national network any time soon.
The railway notes that this year’s increase is the lowest in five years: in 2012 fares jumped by 6% (see in the chart above).
Britain pays a heavy price for its trains: according to the Campaign for Better Transport, a commuter from Peterborough to London spends 14 weeks of his or her year’s salary on fares, spending as much as £7,276.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin explained on the BBC Radio 4 Today program that the Government has been investing on rails like never before, and that the high price paid by the commuters reflects the better quality of travelling.
Britain’s railway network is the fastest growing in Europe. According to National Rail, passenger numbers grew 62% in the UK between 1997-98 and 2010-11, compared to 33% in France, 16% in Germany, and 6% in the Netherlands.
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