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In the News

Rail fares in England and Wales rise by 5.9%

Graham Watson

5th March 2023

The annual increase in regulated rail fares has been announced as 5.9%, and it is always greeted with controversy - but more so this year because services on some parts of the rail network have been so patchy.

However, even though it's below the rate of inflation, it strikes me that it's almost always been above the rate at which pay is increasing, and this will only serve to drive people away from travelling by rail, something that campaign group, Transport Focus, have made plain.

Please read: Rail fares go up in England and Wales by 5.9%

How are rail fares set in the UK?

In the UK, rail fares are set through a combination of government policy and market forces. The government sets the overall framework for rail fares, but individual train operating companies are responsible for setting their own fares within this framework.

The government sets the maximum amount that train fares can increase each year, which is typically linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation. This maximum increase applies to regulated fares, which include season tickets and some off-peak tickets.

Train operating companies are able to set their own prices for unregulated fares, which include peak-time tickets and most leisure fares. These fares are not subject to the government's maximum increase cap and can be adjusted more flexibly to reflect demand and other market factors.

In addition to these basic principles, there are a number of other factors that can influence how rail fares are set in the UK. These can include competition between train operators on particular routes, the availability of cheaper advance purchase fares, and changes in government policy around rail fares and subsidies.

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to tutor2u, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

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