A rail watchdog is urging commuters to buy their season tickets now to avoid fare increases next year after it was revealed East Sussex passengers face a 4.1 per cent hike on some routes next year.
From next January, Eastbourne commuters travelling to the capital will have to pay £4,228 for a season ticket to London Victoria - compared to the £4,060 they are currently paying.
In 2008, the price of a season ticket from Eastbourne to the capital was £3,400 and each year passengers have faced an annual rise.
For those travelling from Rye to Ashford International, the rise is 3.4 per cent with the price of a season ticket in 2013 costing £1,088 compared to the current £1,052. In January 2008, the cost of an annual season ticket on the route was £868.
This is the tenth consecutive year that regulated rail fares had gone up by more than the rate of inflation in England. Regulated fares, which include season tickets and off-peak intercity journeys, make up half of all fares and made the UK among the most expensive for rail travel in Europe.
Now Passenger Focus is advising travellers to take the pain of paying for next year’s season ticket rise by buying theirs now.
“Check the price of your season ticket, and if it is going up, buy your ticket by January 1 to pay this year’s prices. This could save you pounds,” said the action group.
Last month the Government decided to limit regulated fares in England to an overall limit of the inflation figure plus one per cent, rather than the three per cent that was previously proposed. It also appears that train companies are exercising some restraint by not using the full flexibility they are allowed to adjust season ticket fares on individual routes.
However on some routes around the UK, commuters face a rise of nearly six per cent for their season tickets next year. The biggest rise in 2013 would be 5.9 per cent - from £4,588 to £4,860 - for an annual ticket from Canterbury to London.
Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Passengers will feel this pain. After years of above-inflation fare rises, fresh increases are piling pressure on already high fares. Government and the rail industry must now work together to deliver on the welcome promise to get fare rises in line with inflation.”
According to the consumer group, 42 per cent of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of their ticket – but this drops to just 29 per cent for commuters.
Rail Minister and Seaford MP Norman Baker said the government had taken “pro-active steps” because family budgets were being squeezed.
He said: “Successive governments have instructed train companies every year to increase these regulated fares on average by more than inflation. This decision puts an average of £45 per year back into the pockets of over a quarter of a million annual season ticket holders.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said thousands of commuters across south-east England would be “paying more than £5,000 a year for their season tickets because of the government’s unfair annual inflation-plus fare rises”.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said train companies “with the collusion of the government, will be jacking up fares by up to six per cent in the new year as they launch a full-frontal assault on passengers in the name of profit”