Commuters are facing another round of painful rail fare hikes. Here's how to save money on your rail journeys.
Millions of rail passengers will face a 2.8% rise in train fares from January 2020 in a move that will add hundreds of pounds to some commuters' season tickets.
The increase is linked to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for July which has just been confirmed at 2.8% by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The hike is slightly less than in January this year when ticket prices increased by 3.1% but is still a painful blow to already hard-pressed rail passengers.
Which fares will go up?
July’s RPI measure of inflation is used to put up the prices of ‘regulated fares’, which account for around 40% of tickets, including season tickets, off-peak return tickets and walk-up anytime tickets in England and Wales.
In Scotland, season tickets are mainly affected, with off-peak fares to rise by RPI minus 1%, so 1.8%. Today's announcement doesn't affect Northern Ireland as fares are not linked to July's RPI.
Unregulated fares, which cover super off-peak and advance tickets, will be set in December.
Commuters that must buy a season ticket to get to work will be hit hardest by the hikes. Analysis of 183 train routes by the Labour Party found the average season ticket now costs around £3,000.
If that data is correct, today's hike means the typical commuter will pay close to £90 more next year, however, the unlucky few on Britain's priciest season ticket routes could be facing hikes in excess of £200.
Are we being ripped off?
The formula normally used to calculate how much rail fares go up by is July’s RPI + 1%, which allows train companies to hike costs above inflation.
But since 2014, the Government has altered this calculation so rail fare increases have been capped at RPI, to try and appease commuters fed up with rapidly escalating costs.
However, campaign groups argue the bigger problem is using RPI as the index to set prices rather than the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation, currently 2.1%.
CPI is used as the approved benchmark for uprating benefits like the State Pension and it’s usually lower than RPI.
Despite RPI no longer being a National Statistic, continues to be used to determine things like 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.
If you're aged between 26 and 30, the 'Millennial Railcard" costs £30 and will get you a third off fares for a year.
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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