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British Commuters Face Rail Fare Squeeze on Higher Inflation

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. rail commuters will pay about 8 percent more for their season tickets next year, with a possible extra increase on top, based on today’s inflation figures.

Fare increases are pegged to the Retail Price Index inflation measure, which remained at 5 percent in July, according to today’s data. For the next three years, an extra 3 percent will be added to all regulated fares instead of the current formula of RPI plus 1 percent. Some fares may increase by another 5 percent on top, as long as operators balance that with reductions elsewhere.

An annual season ticket from Surbiton, a suburb in London’s commuter belt, to London Waterloo will increase about 123 pounds ($201) to 1,671 pounds a year, based on current prices listed on the National Rail website.

“We’re already paying some of the highest fares in Europe,” Guy Dangerfield, a spokesman for Passenger Focus, a U.K. passenger watchdog, said today in a telephone interview. “In this country it costs around a third more than a comparable railway service elsewhere in Europe.”

In May, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said U.K. rail operators should slash costs by 30 percent to rein in fares, citing a report that showed a 40 percent efficiency gap on the train network when compared with services in France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

“Increasing the money raised from fares will mean that taxpayers contribute less to the running of the railways,” David Mapp, commercial director at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said in a statement on its website.

The higher annual price rise will not apply to Scotrail, which will carry on with RPI plus 1 percent next year due to a decision by Transport Scotland, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies’ statement. Merseyrail will only increase fares in line with RPI, it said.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union said it is “utterly opposed” to the fare increases. “It’s shabby to suggest this is about improving services, it’s about protecting the profits of privateers who take money out of the industry,” an RMT spokesman, who declined to be named because of company policy, said today in a telephone interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Edwards in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at

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