RAIL commuters in Henley face a 3.5 per cent increase in fares next year.
The cost of regulated fares, including season tickets, will go up from January. The rise was calculated using July’s Retail Prices Index, which was announced as 2.5 per cent by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday.
Fares will increase by this figure plus one per cent annually as the Government attempts to transfer some of the cost of maintaining the rail network from taxpayers to passengers.
Based on an increase of 3.5 per cent, the cost of a First Great Western annual season ticket from Henley to London (not via Reading) will rise from £3,492 to £3,614.
Season ticket holders to London via Reading will see an increase in their yearly bill from £4,084 to £4,226. Travel from Henley to Reading will increase from £1,064 to £1,101 per year, while the fare from Henley to Oxford will rise from £2,772 to £2,869.
Ministers say the increase will pay for improvements with £38 billion due to be spent on maintaining and improving the rail network over the next five years.
Train operating companies can further increase fares on individual routes as long as they lower others to compensate but First Great Western said it was too early to say whether this would happen.
Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents all rail operators, said: “Money from fares pays for more trains, better stations and faster services on what is already Europe’s fastest growing, safest and most improved railway.
“Government decides the average change to regulated fares, including season tickets, each year. For a decade, successive governments have regulated commuter fares so as to increase the share of rail’s costs paid by passengers rather than taxpayers.
“Our commitment is to enable future government fares decisions which work best for passengers by continuing to get more out of every pound we spend and encouraging more train travel to pay for services and improvements.”
Will Hamilton, spokesman for the Henley Branch Users’ Group and a Conservative town councillor, said: “While an increase of this magnitude is not liked, our first priority is working with First Great Western to ensure that services are more reliable.
“Our second priority is to seek within the new franchise agreement half-hourly services for the branch line and peak-time commuter services that vastly improve the service to and from London.”
Rail minister Claire Perry said: “We do understand people’s concerns about the cost of travel and the impact this has on family budgets. That is why for 2014 we reduced average fare rises to RPI plus zero per cent for the first time in a decade, saving more than a quarter of a million annual season ticket holders an average of £25 each.
“Although a decision on fare rises for 2015 hasn’t yet been taken, we are looking closely at the cost of travel as part of our ongoing commitment to help hard-working people.”