Rail travellers in UK pay 20% more than the rest of Europe

CUTS in rail fares do not go far enough and British passengers are still paying 20 per cent more than the European average, transport campaigners have warned.

The Campaign for Better Transport said a reduction in some fares introduced today would be "too little, too late".

Ministers have been urged to review the way rail fares are regulated and cut ticket prices to the EU average – by around one-fifth.

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Some commuters will benefit from cheaper tickets from today, when many regulated rail fares drop marginally in price.

Most rail prices are regulated by the government, with increases to most fares capped at 1 per cent above inflation.

The change in the price of regulated fares from 2 January is based on July's Retail Price Index (RPI), which was –1.4 per cent.

As fares are pegged to rise 1 per cent above inflation, it will mean a one-off reduction in regulated fares of 0.4 per cent.

Cat Hobbs, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Regulated fares will fall by 4p for every 10 paid. This is too little, too late for passengers who are already paying hundreds of pounds more because of the government's policy of increasing fares.

"UK train fares are already 20 per cent higher than the European average, so the government needs to make serious cuts to make taking the train affordable."

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: "The majority of rail journeys in this country are made on regulated fares and most of those rail fares will fall from Saturday.

"Passengers will welcome these reductions – regulated fares include the weekly, monthly and annual season tickets used by commuters as well as many day singles and returns and long-distance off-peak fares.

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"This is good news for many passengers; for the first time in a generation, they will see the cost of their tickets fall.

"I hope that this will encourage more people to travel by train, which is also good news for the economy and the environment."

But there were fears that some rail companies would still raise fare prices.

Some ScotRail fares will rise by 3 per cent, while passengers on Virgin Trains will face an increase of 2.8 per cent.

Rail passenger watchdog Passenger Focus has also criticised First Great Western for increasing fares only three months after reducing them.

The company cut some of its single fares by half in September to attract more customers, but now it has put some back up by 15 per cent.

Car parking charges for commuters will also go up.

Passengers on the East Coast Main Line from Edinburgh to London will see car park charges rise by 4.3 per cent at most stations.

While train fares will fall in the short term, passengers will pay a greater proportion of the cost of their journeys as the subsidy for rail will remain static.

The contribution of passenger revenue is expected to increase from 6.7 billion to 9bn per annum by 2013/14.

Meanwhile, rail subsidy levels will remain at around 3bn throughout.