CONCERNS have been raised in Bradford after it emerged that rail passengers will face average season ticket price rises of 3.5 per cent in January following the announcement of the latest inflation figures.
The new-year rises are based on the previous July's Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate plus an additional one per cent - and the RPI rate was today revealed as 2.5 per cent.
Commuters can expect to spend an average of 3.5 per cent extra in January unless the Government, decides, as it did for January 2014, to restrict any rise to the RPI figure alone.
James Vasey of Bradford Rail Users' Group warned however of a double-whammy for West Yorkshire passengers as the Government was instructing future operators of the Northern Rail franchise, to increase fares further in the region as they were significantly below that of other regions.
He added in relation to the RPI announcement: "The Government needs to step in to manage this increase as it did last year. There has been a significant transfer of the rail funding from the Government to passengers and the amount passengers are having to pay is now at a tipping point."
Rail Minister Claire Perry acknowledged that passengers had had to contend with "inflation-busting fare rises almost every year over the last decade" but insisted the Government was committed to "fair fares".
She said: "What we have got to do is make sure rail passengers, who could be forgiven for thinking 'What on earth am I getting for these rises I've seen over the last decade?', start to realise that they are paying fair fares for comfortable commuting."
However rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus called on the Government to restrict rises as it did last time. Director David Sidebottom said: "This level of fare increase puts more pressure on the railways to ensure passengers get an excellent service for the money they are paying.
"We hope the Government will step in again as it did last year, to ensure that train fares in England do not rise above the rate of inflation."
Transport charity Sustrans echoed this, saying: "Last year the Chancellor showed he understood the negative impact of high rail costs on the economy by holding fares to an inflation-only increase. He needs to take action again this year."
In addition The Campaign for Better Transport pointed out that fares have gone up by more than 24 per cent since 2010, while wages had only risen by 6.9 per cent over the same period.
But rail industry body, the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, reiterated that money from fares pays for more trains, better stations and faster services.
Director general Michael Roberts said "For a decade, successive Governments have regulated commuter fares so as to increase the share of rail's costs paid by passengers rather than taxpayers.
"Our commitment is to enable future Government fares decisions which work best for passengers, by continuing to get more out of every pound we spend and encouraging more train travel to pay for services and improvements."