Five questions answered on new government rail fare price curbs

Will now be capped at 6.1 per cent.

The government has announced plans to curb the rail industries ability to increase fares in England. We answer five questions on the new rail fare price cap.

By how much has the government capped potential rail fare increases?

Regulated fares that could potentially have gone up by 9.1 per cent next January will now be capped at 6.1 per cent.

Regulated affairs are controlled by the government; they include season tickets, "anytime" single tickets around major cities, and off-peak inter-city return tickets.

Why have the government decided to do this now?

The move is part of the government’s Fares and Ticketing review being published by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

McLoughlin told the BBC: "Commuters will benefit from knowing there is a strict limit on the amount rail companies can put up the cost. People had been seeing 10 per cent rises."

He added: "If we didn't take action, people would complain that we are not taking action. We are taking action, we are investing in the railways, we are trying to keep the price down as much as we can."

In January, by how much are fares expected to rise by?

In 2014 fares will go up by an average of 4.1 per cent, a number calculated using an average of inflation - as measured by the retail prices index (RPI) for July - plus 1 per cent.

Train companies, if they wish, can add up to another 5 per cent on top of the average rise as long as they balance this by others fares that rise by less or fall.

The government has said it plans to limit that extra increase to 2 per cent in the future

But the provision for the average regulated ticket price to go up by 1 per cent more than inflation remains.

What else are the government planning?

Other changes include a pilot scheme that will make all long distance rail tickets sold as singles and not returns, allowing customers to mix and match different ticket types.

There could also be "touch in, touch out" season tickets that could benefit part-time workers.

A code of conduct for train companies in relation to ticket sales and strengthening of rules on how train companies alter opening times at station ticket offices.

What have the critics said about the government’s rail price ticketing plans?

Mary Creagh, the shadow transport secretary, told the BBC:

"It has taken 18 months, delivers fare increases of up to 6 per cent and is too little too late," she said.

"This announcement doesn't go as far as Labour's plans which would prevent train companies from increasing fares beyond one per cent above inflation."

Other campaigners have said the changes don’t go far enough and point out commuters will still have to pay an above-inflation increase next year.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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