As a 3.8 per cent fares rise takes effect across England and Wales, many rail passengers face difficult journeys in the coming weeks.
The annual increase in ticket prices for “regulated fares” – season tickets, journeys in and out of major cities and longer-distance off-peak fares – is the highest in nine years.
The rise in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) from July last year, and about half the current inflation rate of 7.8 per cent.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We have protected passengers by delaying these fare rises by two months and, even then, opting for a figure well below current inflation rates.
“However, we must now look to recover some of the £14bn which was spent to keep vital services running throughout the pandemic in a way that is fair for all taxpayers.”
Through much of the Covid crisis, the Treasury has paid an average of £1m per hour to keep largely empty trains running. The DfT spokesperson said: “By striking this balance, we will be able to encourage people back on to trains whilst funding the necessary improvements and unprecedented investment that will benefit all those who use our railways.”
The fares increase coincides with the closure of London’s Tube network due to a strike by members of the RMT union. Another stoppage on Thursday will stop Underground trains running. The RMT has also called a series of strikes on TransPennine Express stretching into June.
The union’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “The common thread that runs through all our current disputes and campaigns is a refusal by RMT members to accept that the employer can hammer down on pay, safety, jobs and working conditions at will.”
Many more travelers will be affected by engineering work in the next two months. From the weekend, western Cornwall will be cut off for nine days as Network Rail renews track on the main line in the Truro area.
No trains will run between St Austell and Penzance over the weekend of 5 and 6 March. From Monday 7 to Sunday 13 March, no trains will run west of Truro.
Over Easter, some of Great Britain’s busiest inter-city lines will be disrupted.
London Euston station, hub for the West Coast main line to the West Midlands, northwest England, north Wales and southern Scotland, will be completely closed from Good Friday to Easter Monday – 15 to 18 April.
Trains will start and end at Milton Keynes Central. Other stretches of the West Coast main line will also be closed, including the Coventry-Birmingham line on 16 and 17 April.
The Stansted Express, serving the UK’s third-busiest airport, will be closed from Good Friday to Easter Monday, with rail replacement buses running from Waltham Cross to Stansted airport.
In southern England, no trains will run from London Victoria to East Croydon – the main line to Gatwick airport and Brighton. Alternative services will run from London Bridge.
From the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, the line west of Staines will be closed. The route from Waterloo through Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset to Exeter will be interrupted between Yeovil Junction and Honiton. No trains will run between London Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham.
Network Rail says: “An independent review in 2016 looking at how the rail industry plans and schedules better improvement work concluded that Christmas, Easter and bank holidays are the best times for upgrades that need major lines to be closed.”