Published: 23:16, 01 March 2021
| Updated: 07:03, 02 March 2021
Train fares in Kent have increased by 2.6%, the first increase above inflation since 2014.
In August, the government planned to raise fares by 1.6% in line with inflation but have added an RPI (Retail Price Index) of +1% to mitigate for the increase in use of taxpayer money during the pandemic.
Passenger numbers are 85% down from usual levels across the UK and Network Rail believe the volume of journeys by commuters may only recover to 60% from what is was before the pandemic.
The price of the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments taking over rail franchise agreements (supporting companies) from train operators during the pandemic is expected to cost £10 billion by mid-2021 because of this plummet in travel.
Prices usually rise in January, but the rise was delayed until March due to lockdown and now season tickets in many areas will increase by around £200.
Figures released by the Office of Rail and Road, a non ministerial government department, shows average fares increased in real terms by 15% between January 2004 and January 2020.
Johnbosco Nwogbo, from We Own It speaks about price increases
Johnbosco Nwogbo, from anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It, said: "We think this increase in rail fares is wrong and should be scrapped immediately.
"Firstly, since lockdown was declared, people can only travel on public transportation if they're going to work. Nurses, people stacking the shelves of shops, people who work in our key infrastructure - they're the ones who are going to be hit hardest.
"The government has recently been asked to raise the wages of key workers such as nurses in the budget that's about to be announced and they've refused to. This is contrary to any spirit of appreciation.
"Secondly, it's wrong that the government has put itself in this position to raise the fares on our rail because of the crisis that has been put on the system by the privatisation of the system.
"If the government made it their position to take our rail into public ownership, we could save £1 billion a year and cut fares by up to 18% for users.
"Very soon lockdown is going to be loosened. If you want them to come back to using the trains raising the fares is not a good way to incentivise them to do so.
"They should decide immediately to take our rail into public ownership, in that way they can save us money and they can begin to plan ahead for making our rail a much more sustainable and green infrastructure for the future."
However, a DfT (Department for Transport) spokesman noted this is the lowest rise in four years “despite unprecedented taxpayer support for the rail industry”.
She added: “By delaying the change in fares, passengers who needed to renew season tickets were able to get a better deal, and we will set our further plans to offer cheaper, more flexible tickets for commuters in due course.”
Robert Nisbet, from industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said it is up to the government to decide how much it wants passengers to pay towards the cost of running the railway.
He added train operators want to give passengers 'better value' by working with ministers to create a 'new, more flexible' ticketing system.