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Train fares set for 'lowest rise'

16 November 09 16:52 GMT

Train fares are to rise by the lowest rate since rail privatisation in the mid-1990s, the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) has said.

It announced that fares would increase by an average of 1.1% in January.

Regulated fares, which include season tickets, will fall by 0.4% because they are linked to inflation.

However unregulated fares - including cheap day returns - are expected to go up and some rail unions have expressed fears of rises of as much as 10%.

Combined figures

The average cost of a train journey is to rise from £5.05 to £5.11 from January.

Regulated fares make up about 40% of all fares and will fall because they are capped at RPI inflation plus 1%, based on July's inflation rate of minus 1.4%.

Atoc usually releases separate figures for the regulated and unregulated increases.

However, this time it was not disclosing what the average unregulated fare increase would be, opting instead to combine the two figures to give the 1.1% rise.

'Sting in tail'

Atoc chief executive Michael Roberts said the changes were good news for the vast majority of passengers.

He told BBC News: "Fares are going to go up by just over one percent, that's lower than the expected rate of inflation.

"This is part of the train companies recognising that market conditions are pretty tough out there and what we're really committed to doing is trying to make sure that we attract people to using the train rather than the car or the plane."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Passenger Focus, welcomed the overall level of the rise but said there was a "sting in the tail".

"Many unregulated fares will continue to soar above inflation as the average figures published today will mask steep rises on individual routes," he said.

"We call upon the industry to be clear about which fares are going up and to publish average increases for unregulated fares for each train operating company."

New trains

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, accused Atoc of "gloss and spin", while TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty said the train companies were guilty of an "outrageous piece of spin".

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said putting up rail fares would "not not get people back on to the railways."

Among the changes for individual train companies, First Great Western will increase unregulated fares by an average of 2.47%, with some rises of nearly 4%.

Southern said its fares would rise by an average of 0.8%, while Chiltern tickets will increase by an average of 1.4%.

Season ticket rises will be greater on Southeastern trains at 1.6% because of its investment in the 140mph "Javelin" trains.

First ScotRail said about 70% of fares in Scotland would be frozen or reduced but many unregulated fares would rise by 3%, meaning an average overall increase of 0.26%.

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