Passengers in England will not face a crippling double-digit rise in train fares of as much as 12% after the government said it would step in to keep fares lower amid the soaring cost of living crisis.
Prices traditionally increase each January, based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) recorded the previous July plus 1%.
That figure – estimated to be as high as 11.9% after inflation rose to the highest rate in 40 years – is due to be announced on Wednesday.
If prices were raised by that much, the cost of an annual season ticket from Reading to London would rise by £600 to £5,644, and £684 to £6,440 commuting between the capital and Colchester.
The increase would be almost double the previous record rise and the biggest increase for regulated rates since privatization in 1993. The previous peak was 5.9% in 2009.
However, the government has promised that the increase will be below the rate of inflation and that the increase will be postponed until March. During the coronavirus pandemic, the annual increase in train fares was pushed back from January to March.
“The Government is taking decisive action to reduce the impact inflation will have on rail fares during the cost of living crisis and will not increase fares as much as the RPI figure for July,” a Department for Transport spokesperson said.
She said: “We are also postponing the increase again until March 2023, temporarily freezing tickets for passengers to travel at a lower price throughout January and February while we continue to take steps to help struggling households.”
The government is also preparing a more competitive flexible season ticket to help commuters and passengers suffering from the cost of living crisis, according to the Sunday Times.
The promise applies to regulated fares in England, covering around 45% of journeys including season tickets, some off-peak return tickets on long-haul journeys and anytime tickets around major cities.
In March, in England and Wales, which usually coincides with increases in England, there was the sharpest increase in regulated train fares since January 2013, with a rise of 3.8%.
Fares for rail services in Northern Ireland are set by state-owned operator Translink, which does not use the RPI.
The Scottish Government has not yet released its plan for next year.
Railway workers across the country continue to strike over pay. On Saturday, around 6,500 train drivers who are members of the Aslef trade union took action. More strikes are planned for the coming week, with members of the RMT and TSSA unions set to walk out on August 18 and 20.
Industrial action will also be taken on August 19 by London Underground and London bus drivers.