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Regulated rail fares in the UK are due to increase by 3.8
per cent in 2022, the biggest increase in prices in nearly a decade.

Last year, the annual fare increase was tied to the retail
price index (RPI) rate of inflation plus 1 per cent. However, the government
made the decision to cap the increase at just the RPI for 2022.

Regulated prices account for around half of fares on the UK’s
rail network and include season tickets on most commuter routes. However, the
government recently launched new flexible season tickets to accommodate
employees who do not travel to the office on a daily basis.

Annual price increases usually take effect on the first
working day of the year, but due to the pandemic this is being
delayed until 1 March 2022. In addition, the Book with Confidence scheme has been
extended until 31 March, meaning passengers can continue to change or cancel
their trains without being charged a fee until that date.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Capping rail fares
in line with inflation while tying it to the July RPI strikes a fair balance,
ensuring we can continue to invest record amounts into a more modern, reliable
railway, ease the burden on taxpayers and protect passengers from the highest
RPI in years.”

Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group,
which oversees ticketing across the network, added: “It is important that fares
are set at a level that will encourage more people to travel by train in the
future, helping to support a clean and fair recovery from the pandemic.

“We know the railway must not take more than its fair share
from the taxpayer, which is why the rail industry is working to create a
financially sustainable and more passenger-focused service – that will both
keep costs down long term and attract people back to the train.”

The news has been slammed by Clive Wratten, CEO of the
Business Travel Association, who pointed out the announcement on rail fares came
shortly after a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority about an increase
in passenger charges at Heathrow airport.

Wratten said: “The travel community has been hit with a
double whammy of additional fares in the last 24 hours. This comes on top of
the current Covid-19 restrictions.

“This is not the right time to be charging business and leisure
travellers more. We should be focusing on increasing customer confidence and
encouraging people to consider safe domestic and international travel.

“To be a truly global Britain, the government should be
supporting the industry, not placing further blocks in place to its recovery.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog
Transport Focus, warned that increases in fares should be used to deliver
better services.

“As some fares rise it is even more important that Great
British Railways, when it is set up, gives life to the government’s ambition to
make rail fares better value for money. The need to boost passenger numbers and
revenue through innovative rail ticket retailing and offers will be vital. Keeping
costs under control will also be needed.

“In the meantime, the extension of the travel with
confidence guarantee will be welcome. The commitment to introducing
pay-as-you-go type ticketing across the North and Midlands will help in time.
More promotions and ticket discounts and pull more people towards choosing
rail.”

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