Rail fares to rise by 3.2% despite commuters suffering from a summer of network chaos

Rail season tickets are set to rise by hundreds of pounds as the government announced today that fares are set to go up by 3.2% after a summer of delays and cancellations across numerous services.

The rise will come into effect from January with the hike once again outstripping the rise in wages across the UK. Despite being lower than the 3.6% hike felt by passengers at the start of this year, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has slammed the latest rise by saying commuters are paying  "through the nose" for overcrowded services.

Campaign groups have been mounting pressure on the government for a freeze in rail fares after highlighting the poor service felt by many since timetable changes across many of the main operators occurred in May.

According to new analysis released today by Trades Union Congress (TUC), rail fares have increased at more than twice the speed of wages since 2008. The figures show that rail fares have risen by 42% over the past ten years, while nominal weekly earnings have only grown by 18%.

The confirmation of a 3.2% price increase comes just hours after the transport secretary Chris Grayling said the rail industry should change how it calculates fare rises and staff wages to cut costs for passengers. Grayling says he has asked train operators and unions to use a different, lower, inflation measure to set pay and fare increases.

The transport secretary believes the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), to determine increases instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation which is currently used. Grayling added that he wanted to see "lower levels of increases for passengers in future".

His call for a change in determining price rises has angered the RMT union who accused him of trying to impose a "pay cap" on its members. Union members will be staging protests throughout the day outside stations in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh.

Head of the RMT, Mick Cash said: "If Chris Grayling seriously thinks that front-line rail workers are going to pay the price for his gross incompetence and the greed of the private train companies he's got another thing coming. This is a basket case government and a lame duck transport secretary continuing all-out war on staff and passengers alike. RMT will fight any attempt to impose a pay cap on our members in a drive to protect private train company profits."

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald has responded by saying Grayling had pointed the finger at the wrong people and called the price hike “totally unacceptable”.

“This is a pathetic attempt to shift the blame for Tory fares policies onto the staff who run the railway," McDonald said. “It's telling that Grayling doesn't suggest slashing the salaries of train company bosses or dividends paid to shareholders of private train companies.”

The IPPR North, a leading think-tank for the north of England, has lambasted the latest hike in rail fares and claims that northerners are not benefitting from near enough improvements in rail infrastructure to justify the rise.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North said: “The transport secretary expects Northerners to dig deeper into their own pockets for the railways, but still refuses to do so himself by investing in the north’s infrastructure. Our independent analysis of government spending by region shows that more than twice as much per head in London as in the north over the last decade; planned investment is 2.6 times more per head in the capital. This is one of the reasons behind the ongoing rail chaos in the North. It is causing daily problems for commuters and in doing so is a drag on the economy of the region and the country. If the transport secretary expects northerners to pay more, he must follow through and invest in northern infrastructure as promised.”

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