COMMUTERS in England, Scotland, and Wales are set to be hit with ticket price hikes of 1.6% next year as inflation has risen to its highest level in four months.
The retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation, which is used to determine rail fares, rose from 1.1% in the year to June to 1.6% in the year to July.
It comes as petrol and diesel prices soared to their largest monthly increase in almost ten years due to a rebound in global oil prices, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Elsewhere, recreation prices rose as businesses including pubs and restaurants, started reopening their doors again in July after lockdown.
But it’s bad news for rail fares regulated by the government as these usually increase every January in England, Scotland, and Wales in line with July’s RPI figure.
These fares, which make up around half of tickets, include season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys, and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.
The hike would see the price of an annual season ticket from Brighton to London increase by £80 to £5,060, while a season ticket from Barrow-in-Furness to Preston would rise by £69 to £4,353.
Meanwhile, an annual season ticket from Edinburgh to Glasgow would increase by £67 to £4,267.
Fare hikes are usually confirmed by the government later in the year, but there is speculation ministers are considering delaying the 2021 rise due to low passenger numbers.
Department for Transport figures show car use has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, but rail travel is below a third of what it was before the crisis despite lockdown restrictions easing and workers encouraged back to offices.
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus this week called for a major shake-up of rail fares to make them more flexible to encourage passengers back to the railways following the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, ticket prices rose by a much larger 2.8%, while in 2019 they increased by 3.1%.
Fares in Northern Ireland are calculated by Translink and it doesn’t use the same RPI cap as elsewhere in Britain.
Unregulated fares, meanwhile, are set by train operators.
The increase is a further blow to commuters who already face rising Transport for London costs, and an increased congestion charge.
In terms of other measures of inflation, the consumer prices index, including housing costs (CPIH), today rose from 0.6% to 1.1%, while the consumer prices index (CPI), which excludes housing costs, rose from 1.1% to 1.6%.
Rising clothing, furniture and household goods prices also pushed up inflation.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “Inflation has risen, in part, due to the largest monthly pump price increase in nearly a decade, as international oil prices rose from their lows earlier this year.”