RAIL USERS saw an inflation-busting rise in ticket prices as they headed back to work following the New Year break yesterday.
It is the tenth consecutive year that the cost of tickets has risen above inflation, according to campaign groups.
The price rise, which was announced in August, saw the cost of the average train ticket go up by 3.9%.
Season tickets and other “regulated fares” set by the Government increased by an average of 4.2%.
For some in the North East the hikes will be even steeper than elsewhere, with Northern Rail – which operates services across the North East, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester – putting their tickets up by an average 4.8%.
East Coast, the company which operates the routes between Newcastle, London and Edinburgh amongst others, softened the blow to train users with an average price rise of 2.6%.
Rail companies can raise the price of some season and other regulated tickets above 4.2%, as long as they are balanced out by smaller rises elsewhere.
For example, an East Coast season ticket from Newcastle to Morpeth for 2013 will set commuters back £1,008, up 5% from last year, while a Durham to Newcastle annual season ticket from the same company has been raised by 4.4% to £1,148.
The price rises have been criticised by local and national campaigners.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: “David Cameron misled commuters when he promised to cap fare rises at 1% above inflation.
“Many commuters have faces a nasty new year shock as they discover fares have gone up by as much as 9.2%.”
The current rate of inflation as calculated by the Retail Price Index is around 3%.
Vicki Gilbert, chair of the Tyne and Wear Public Transport users group, said price hikes would push more people towards using their car, adding: “These fare rises are going to hit those who can least afford them – the young, old, families and grandparents.”
But transport minister Norman Baker defended the increases.
He said: “We are engaged in the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century, and it is only right that the passenger, as well as the taxpayer, contributes towards that. In the longer term, we are determined to reduce the cost of running the railways so we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises.”
Gordon Newton, 63, a lorry driver from Sunderland, who was at Newcastle Central Station yesterday to collect a friend, said he was against ticket prices being raised above inflation.
“People who use the rail should pay for it though, it shouldn’t be subsidised,” added Mr Newton, who has not travelled by train for 40 years. “Nobody helps me with the taxes I have to pay on my car.”