Extortionate National Rail Fare Increases

You may remember that I wrote about a problem with National Rail fare increases back in October.  I’m disappointed to report that exactly the same problem will occur on March 1st this year, meaning that the cumulative effect is getting worse.

As a reminder, when applying small increases (circa 2.5%) to fares below £4, the actual increase is larger because the new fare has to be a multiple of 10p.  The lower the fare is the higher the percentage increase will be.  The reasonable way to handle this is to increase the fare by 10p initially, then freeze it until the desired cumulative increase has passed the original increase.

For example, say a £1.70 fare was required to increase by 2.5% each year for six years.  Rounding to the nearest penny would give new fares of £1.74, £1.79, £1.83, £1.88, £1.92 and £1.97.  Actual increases could mean £1.80 in years one, two and three, £1.90 in years four and five and £2.00 in year six.  But because a 10p increase has been applied every year the cumulative increase is doubled.

The following tables list all the fares in zones 1-6 used by Southeastern, Southern and South Western Railway, as well as Thameslink and Great Northern where the journey extends beyond zone 1.  The original fare in 2015 is shown along with each annual increse and the fare which will be charged from March 1st this year with the cumulative percentage increase over the six years.

National Rail Peak single fares 2015-2021


National Rail Off-peak single fares 2015-2021


As mentioned in the earlier article, the clear winners are occasional commuters from places like Bexleyheath, Sutton and Twickenham who have seen their peak time single fare to London rise by just 12.2% over the six years.  Off peak travellers sticking to a single zone outside zone 1 (e.g. Crayford to Erith, Sutton to West Croydon, Isleworth to Brentford, Balham to Crystal Palace) meanwhile have suffered a cumulative rise of 35.3%.

I’m starting the campaign now to get some of the extortionate rises frozen, starting with the next fares review in Jan 2022.  As someone who pre-pandemic often travelled one or two zones I will be writing to my MP.  I’d urge others in similar situations to do the same.

2 thoughts on “Extortionate National Rail Fare Increases”

  1. This also means that the NR and TfL fares are still diverging. The Off peak Zone 2-6 tube fare, even after March, will only be £1.70 compared with the National Rail fare of £3.20. I still think there should be a common fare structure across tube and National Rail within the zones (as happens in many European cities) but this is looking increasingly unlikely.

    However, I can’t see the train companies accepting a fare freeze, in fact I’m expecting fare rises to be considerably higher in the future to cover losses suffered during the Covid pandemic.

    • I don’t want to mix the topic of TfL and NR fares diverging as it really is a different matter. The likelihood is that they won’t now get any further apart and your example of off-peak zone 2-6 is actually 10p closer after this increase. I agree that a common structure is highly desirable and also something that the previous mayor claimed to want back in 2010.

      Fare rises are now controlled by the government so the TOCs just impliment the decisions. There is a limit to how much fares can rise before people just don’t use the services. This is part of my point because short journeys now cost much more compared to a car or bus than they did six years ago.

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