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Commuters return to work to find train tickets have soared by £2,000 in a decade - Daily Mail

It was an unhappy New Year for commuters as they found the cost of season tickets had soared by as much as £2,000 in a decade – while punctuality has plunged to the lowest level in 13 years.

New Year's Eve celebrations for many travellers across the South of England were marred by yet another rail strike yesterday.

And millions returning to work tomorrow will be hit by a fresh round of inflation-busting fare hikes.

Commuters found the cost of season tickets had soared by as much as £2,000 in a decade. (Stock image of London Euston Station)

Commuters found the cost of season tickets had soared by as much as £2,000 in a decade. (Stock image of London Euston Station)

The latest increase of up to 3.2 per cent – described as a 'kick in the teeth' for workers – will add more than £100 to the price of many annual tickets.

But an audit by the Daily Mail has laid bare the crippling rise in the price of rail travel over the longer term, placing huge pressure on household budgets.

Of 44 season ticket fares published by the independent consumer group Transport Focus, 18 have risen in price by more than £1,000 since 2009.

Commuters travelling the 78-mile journey between Swindon and London will see the cost of their season ticket rise by £276 to £9,016 from tomorrow.

This means their annual fare is £2,168 more expensive than in 2009. The average commuter has seen the cost of their annual rail travel rise by almost £800 over the past decade. 

The cost is eating further into disposable incomes. While the price of season tickets has jumped by 37 per cent over this period, wages have grown by just 22 per cent.

Fare rises have also comfortably outpaced the official CPI rate of inflation, which has gone up by 26.7 per cent.

The latest hike comes after a year plagued by timetable chaos, strike action, engineering works and the worst punctuality since 2005, when Tony Blair was still in power – with one in seven services delayed.

Yesterday, 730 out of 1,568 South Western Railway services were cancelled after the militant RMT union deliberately targeted New Year's Eve revellers.

Members staged a 24-hour walkout – the 30th day of strike action over the year.

The long-running protest is over the introduction of a fleet of Class 701 Bombardier trains which will enable drivers – rather than guards – to open and close train doors if the guard is sick or does not turn up for work.

A South Western Railway spokesman said: 'The RMT continues to play politics with their ongoing strike action, causing misery at a time when people want to be with friends and family to celebrate the New Year.

'If the union really cares about passengers it should call off these strikes and start helping to build a better railway.'

Many of those hit by the biggest fare rises are those affected by the strikes.

Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: 'Rail passengers suffered atrocious service in 2018 and this latest fare rise will only add to their misery.

'The Government's decision to press ahead, despite a year of delays, cancellations and overcrowding, shows a total disregard for passengers and may leave many wondering what they are paying for.' 

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP and member of the Treasury committee, added: 'Passengers will be forced to pay more for what has been a miserable service. It is a real kick in the teeth.'

Blood on the tracks: A year of chaos for miserable commuters 

Snow during the Beast from the East and Storm Emma saw hundreds of cancellations last February and March.

Botched new timetable in May saw up to 310 cancellations a day on Northern and 470 on Govia Thameslink. An independent report concluded that 'nobody took charge'.

RMT organised 30 days of strikes on South Western and 42 days on Northern.

Overhead power cables collapse twice in two weeks in October.

The rail watchdog launched action against Network Rail in November for failing to deliver a 'punctual and reliable' service. The same day, former boss Mark Carne collected a CBE.

Crossrail line between the East and West of London delayed indefinitely and given £1.4billion emergency bailout.

Damning report into HS2 high speed line found the estimated cost of buying land had tripled in six years to £3billion.

The hike, set by the Government, is significantly above the official CPI measure of inflation, which was 2.5 per cent in July.

The Office of Rail and Road watchdog recently launched enforcement action against Network Rail for failing to deliver a 'punctual and reliable' service.

Robert Nisbet, of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: 'We understand that nobody wants to pay more for their journey to work, but money from fares is underpinning record investment to build the better railway customers want and the country's economy needs.'

Passengers who hoped to see the back of the 'cattle truck' Pacer trains have been told they must wait a little longer.

Operator Northern promised to start phasing out its 100-strong diesel fleet, which hark back to the days of British Rail, before the New Year. 

But it has not been able to scrap the Pacers because of delays to infrastructure upgrades, such as the electrification of the Manchester to Bolton route.