East Coast has become the first train company to announce fares for 2014, revealing a freeze on more than half its to-and-from London fares and below-inflation rises on others.
But its regulated fares, which include season tickets, are rising by the recently-agreed 3.1% average which is in line with the July 2013 RPI inflation rate on which the January 2014 national rises are based.
East Coast, which has been run in the public sector for the last four years, operates services from London up the east side of England to Scotland, with about 60% of the services starting or finishing at London’s King’s Cross station.
Today, the company said that its overall average rise for all fares from January 2, 2014 was 1.21% with unregulated fares - which include off-peak fares and advanced-purchased tickets for leisure travellers - going up by an average of 0.83%.
East Coast managing director Karen Boswell said: “We’re freezing fares to help our customers and encourage more people to travel with us. This will help us to continue to grow our business, and to give back even more to the taxpayer.
“This is a straightforward commercial decision which is very good news for our customers and businesses across our route. It will also help East Coast to sustain our strong advantage in a highly-competitive travel market.”
She went on: “When you take into account the rate of inflation, today’s announcement represents a genuine real terms cut in our overall fares. We believe this will attract more people to our trains, and help to maximise revenue.
“It will also help businesses and hard-working people by holding down the cost of travel for many. As one of the leading long-distance train operators, we’re doing our bit to help businesses grow, and that has to be welcome news for jobs and investment in the regions we serve throughout Britain.”
Season ticket-holders nationwide had been facing average rises of 4.1% from January 2014, with companies allowed to put up some regulated fares by as much 5% above the 4.3% figure as long as the overall average was no more than 4.1%
But first the Government announced that this flexibility, instead of being extended to 5%, could only be extended to 2%.
Then in his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the January 2014 average regulated fare rise would be reduced from 4.1% to 3.1%.
The reduction announcement has meant that season ticket-holders, who normally get news of their annual fare rise around early December, have had to wait longer this year before learning how much they will have to fork out for their travel in 2014.
TSSA transport union leader Manuel Cortes said: “This is good news for passengers on the East Coast line after eight years of inflation-plus fare increases.
“This should be a benchmark for the rest of the industry. If the East Coast can do it, then so can Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson (on the West Coast line) and other firms who have made massive profits down the years from ripping off passengers.
“We would like to see all fares frozen because they have more than doubled since privatisation 20 years ago.”