Rail Fare Increases: Why Have Train Ticket Prices Increased?

Rail fares have increased at their fastest rate in almost a decade. Find out why rail fares are going up and how to find cheaper train tickets and save money on transport.

Brean Horne Last updated on 16 March 2022.
Rail Fare Increases: Why Have Train Ticket Prices Increased?

Rail fares have increased by 3.8% hitting commuters in England, Wales and Scotland with the fastest fare rise in almost a decade.

It comes as the cost of living in the UK hits its highest rate in 30 years, leaving many households feeling the squeeze. Here, we explain why rail fares increase and give tips on how you can get cheaper train tickets to save money.

When will rail fares increase this year?

In England and Wales, rail fares increased from 1 March 2022. Usually, rail fares increase from the first working day of the year, but ticket price rises were postponed until March to give commuters more time to purchase cheaper train tickets.

Rail fares increased for commuters in Scotland on 24 January 2022.

So, although you may have not been able to benefit from a cheaper season ticket, read on to find out why ticket prices have gone up and how to save money on train tickets.

Why do rail fares increase?

Rail fare increases in England, Wales and Scotland are usually linked to the July Retail Price Index (RPI) from the previous year.

RPI is the oldest measurement of inflation and was introduced in June 1947. Unlike the Consumer Price Index (CPI) it tracks a larger number of goods and services, including estate agent fees, mortgage interest rates and the cost of a TV licence.

The RPI for July 2021 was 3.8%, so fares have increased by this amount.

Rail fares in Northern Ireland are managed by a state-owned train company called Translink and are not linked to RPI.

» MORE: Get tips on how to manage the rising cost of living

What do rail fares pay for?

According to the Rail Delivery Group, the rail industry trade body, around 98p in every £1 you spend on train tickets goes back into running and maintaining services.

This includes paying for the trains, energy and staffing. The Rail Delivery Group estimates that rail fares fund each of the following costs:

  • 35% – maintenance and administration
  • 25% staff
  • 13% train leasing
  • 12% railway track and infrastructure costs
  • 8% – payments to the government and supporting reinvestment
  • 5%fuel and energy
  • 2%profit

Have Transport for London rail fares increased?

Fares on Transport for London (TfL) services are also linked to July's RPI. Typically, TfL services increase by the government's RPI plus 1%.

The cost of TfL services rose by 4.8% from 1 March 2022, adding 10p or 20p to the average journey. Since 2016, TfL rail fares – including travelcards – have increased by 13%.

How to save money on rail fares

Although rail fare increases are unavoidable, there are still ways to save money on your train journeys. The following top tips can help you secure cheap train tickets and find budget-friendly transport options:

  • Book in advance: You can often secure cheaper train tickets by booking in advance. Most train operators offer cost-effective advanced tickets up to 12 weeks before a journey. Signing up for ticket alerts can help you get the first pick of the discounted tickets as soon as they go on sale.
  • Apply for a Railcard: Investing in a Railcard can help you save up to a third on train tickets. Most train companies offer discounts for children, students, couples, seniors and unemployed commuters to name a few groups, so keep an eye out for additional discounts to help save money on rail fares. With a Railcard, you can also save money on days out to theme parks and other attractions across Great Britain. Visit railcard.co.uk to find out what Railcard could be best for you.
  • Consider a season ticket: If you travel more than three times a week by train, it may be worth buying a season ticket to help you save money. National Rail’s online season ticket calculator can help you find the most suitable type of season ticket and how much it’ll cost.
  • Split ticketing: You can cut the cost of your rail fare by breaking a journey up into smaller parts. This is called split ticketing. Websites including Split My Fare and TrainSplitting can help you estimate how much you could save by splitting your journey instead of taking a direct train.

» MORE: Check out our guide on how to get cheap train tickets for more tips on how to save money on travel

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Brean is a personal finance writer at NerdWallet. She covers a range of financial topics and has written for consumer titles including Which?, Moneywise and The Motley Fool. Read more

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