Commuters are being urged to direct angry tweets, texts or phone calls to the Treasury over the average 5.9 per cent increases for rail and Tube services in London.
The hikes came into effect yesterday. The government, train companies and London Mayor Boris Johnson claim they are necessary to sustain investment in the Tube and mainline railway, including projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink.
Season tickets have copped the biggest hit – an average 11 per cent – with a season ticket between Northampton and London rising 6.9 per cent to £4756. In London, Tube and bus fares have been raised by 5.6 per cent on average.
Activists are handing out leaflets at Tube, train, tram and bus stations today, and members of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and the TSSA transport union are protesting outside St Pancras station. They are backed by London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, who pledges to cut fares by seven per cent if he is elected.
A “flexible” arrangement allows train companies to put some regulated fares up by more than the average as long as the overall average remains 6 per cent. In its last year of power Labour scrapped this flexible scheme and insisted companies not exceed the annual formula figure on any ticket. But the coalition Government has reverted to the old plan, with Labour calling for the flexible rule to be scrapped again.
Last week, the CBT released figures that showed Londoners are paying up to 10 times more for season tickets than they would on comparable European journeys.
CBT public transport campaigner Sophie Allain said: “When the cost of season tickets is so much higher than other European capitals, the government’s fare rises are starting to affect the UK’s competitiveness.
“That’s why, if the government is serious about promoting economic growth, it must also look at reducing planned fare rises in 2013 and 2014 as part of a policy to cut fares and make public transport truly affordable.”
The rises come at a time of high inflation and low or no salary increases, and Network Rail’s poor punctuality on long-distance rail routes, as highlighted recently by the Office of Rail Regulation, makes the hikes even more audacious.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “Money raised through fares helps to pay for better services. For a number of years, the Government has sought to sustain investment in the railways by reducing what taxpayers contribute and increasing the share that is paid for by passengers.
“The focus of the whole industry is to keep on reducing the overall cost of running the railways as a way of limiting future fare rises and providing taxpayers with better value for money.”
Labour candidate, Livingstone warns fares are now costing more than a quarter of minimum-wage take-home pay.
Livingstone said: “This is the wrong fare rise at the wrong time, taking money out of people’s pockets when the London economy is struggling and when people are very hard pressed.
“The impact applies across London and across ages and income brackets. Yet every year the Mayor rakes in more income from fares than his budgets and business plans says he will.”
The hikes could have been worse. The Government had originally intended to raise the January 2012 annual increase for regulated fares from RPI inflation plus 1 per cent to RPI plus 3 per cent, but it chose not to after all, the government contributing £136 million to London travel.
These are some of the annual ticket fare rises, showing December 2011 prices compared to January 2012 prices, plus the percentage rise.
Leeds-Wakefield £840 to £908 +8.09 per cent
B.Stortford-London £3,100 to £3,320 +7.09 per cent
Northampton-London £4,448 to £4,756 +6.92 per cent
Portsmouth-London £3,920 to £4.060 +3.57 per cent
Basingstoke-London £3,580 to £3,792 +5.90 per cent
Ramsgate-London £4,376 to £4,640 +6.03 per cent
Woking-London £2,628 to £2,780 +5.78 per cent
Folkestone-London £4,352 to £4,612 +5.97 per cent
Reading-London £3,584 to £3,800 +6.02 per cent
Peterborough-London £5,320 to £5,620 +5.63 per cent
Sevenoaks-London £2,816 to £2,980 +5.82 per cent
Aylesbury-London £3,340 to £3,520 +5.38 per cent
Cambridge-London £4,000 to £4,240 +6.00 per cent
Colchester-London £4,140 to £4,376 +5.70 per cent
Bedford-London £3,780 to £4,004 +5.92 per cent
Cheltenham Spa-London £8,312 to £8,812 +6.01 per cent
Hastings-London £3,956 to £4,136 +4.95 per cent