Rail fares rise 2.7%: how to find cheaper train tickets

Updated on 02 January 2020 | 6 Comments

Commuters now have to spend up to £240 more on rail fares. Here's how to save money on your train journeys.

Train fares have increased by 2.7% on average, which will add hundreds of pounds to some commuters’ season tickets this year. 

The hike is slightly less than the whopping 3.1% hike imposed in January 2019 but is still a painful blow to already hard-pressed rail passengers.

Darren Shirley, chief executive of advocacy group Campaign for Better Transport, said the hikes would "leave passengers dismayed after years of appalling service."

He added: "With little relief in sight for many from delays, cancellations and overcrowding, it will be an inauspicious start to the new year for the railway.

"The rail industry should be doing everything possible to ensure that passengers can get the cheapest fare for their journey.

"The industry should do everything it can to encourage more independent ticket retailers and allow them to sell train tickets so they can help passengers find the cheapest fare and save money."

How rail fare hikes are calculated

Regulated fares, which account for around 40% of tickets, including season tickets, off-peak return tickets and walk-up anytime tickets, are pegged to July's RPI inflation figure. 

That came in at 2.8% and was confirmed in August. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, pointed out that the 2.7% average fare hikes are at least lower than this cap.

This seems a fairly small crumb of comfort to us, especially when you consider the eye-watering amount people are paying to travel by train.

How much more will you pay?

Commuters who must buy a season ticket to get to work will obviously be hit hardest by the hikes.

Analysis of 183 train routes by the Labour Party last year found the average season ticket already costs around £3,000.

If that data is correct, it means the typical commuter will pay around £80 more this year, however, the unlucky few on Britain's priciest season ticket routes could be facing hikes in excess of £200.

In terms of individual rail firms, the Evening Standard has spoken to many of them to give you a rough idea of how prices will rise.

Here are a few of the standout changes:

  • Chiltern Railways: 3%
  • Grand Central: 2.8%
  • CrossCountry: 2.8%
  • Govia Thameslink Railway: 2.7%
  • c2c: 2.6%
  • Greater Anglia (includes Stansted Express): 2.6%
  • London North Eastern Railway: 1.2%

Are we being ripped off?

Since 2014, the Government has stated that rail fare increases must be capped at RPI.

However, campaign groups argue that commuters are being ripped off by using RPI as the index to set prices rather than the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is considered more accurate and is generally far lower (it was 2.1% in July).

CPI is already used as the approved benchmark for uprating benefits like the State Pension, for example.

Despite RPI no longer being a national statistic, it continues to be used to determine things such as train fares, even though the measure is not recommended by the ONS.

We've written more about the unfair way inflation is applied over here.

How to beat the hikes

If you have the funds to pay for your season ticket upfront, consider taking out a cashback credit card.

These deals pay a percentage back when you spend meaning you can recoup some of your costs.

The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card pays 5% for the first three months of spending (capped at £100), so buying a £2,000 season ticket would get you £100 back.

There are also a load of different railcards that can save you a fortune if you travel regularly, which we discuss in more detail here.

For those forced to travel on an unreliable line, make sure you use the Delay Repay scheme to get as much of your money back as possible when trains are late.

For more detailed tips to save, check out our guides: cheap rail season tickets: six ways to cut costs and cheap train tickets: cut the cost of UK rail travel.



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