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Regulated rail fares frozen again – Osborne

Commuter rail fares in England will be frozen in-line with inflation for a further year into 2015, the chancellor George Osborne has announced.

This means that no regulated fares, including season tickets and anytime singles, will rise by more than 2.5% from January. Before the changes were made, train operating companies (TOCs) could have raised fares on some regulated rail journeys by as much as 5.5%.

The rise is typically calculated on an RPI plus 1% basis, with TOCs able to add a further 2% increase on some routes under the so-called “flex rule”.

However, in a move which Osborne says will help hardworking families, the chancellor has also said that TOCs will no longer be able to increase individual fares by up to 2% more than the permitted average increase.

Osborne said: “Support for hardworking taxpayers is at the heart of our long term economic plan. It’s only because we’ve taken difficult decisions on the public finances that we can afford to help families further.

“I can announce that no regulated rail fares will rise by more than inflation in 2015, which together with last year’s freeze will save season ticket holders around £75 over 2014 and 2015.”

Responding to the government’s announcement, Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group representing Network Rail and rail operators, said it is good news for commuters. “We support the government’s decision to ensure a real terms freeze in next year's season tickets and other regulated fares,” he said. 

However, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh MP stated that commuters suffering under the cost-of-living crisis will take this with a pinch of salt.

She added: “David Cameron’s government has hit passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of 21% since 2010, adding to the cost of living crisis. The Tories have no plan for the railways: this won’t deal with the costs of their bungled franchise extensions and won’t deliver the change passengers need.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes also condemned the decision. He stated that the chancellor has “some brass neck” presenting the 2.5% increase as a good news story when it means “he will have increased rail fares by a huge 24% since moving into Number 11 Downing Street in 2010”.

He added that if he was genuinely interested in helping passengers, who have seen their real wages fall over the past four years, he would have actually frozen fares, not hiked them upwards again.

But Martin Abrams, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the announcement would be a “welcome relief to millions of people”.

“Hopefully it's an indication that the government will now implement a coherent plan of much-needed investment which removes the burden from passengers,” he added.

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