On this page you can find out the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about why rail fares are rising.

Why are some fares going up?

The government and the rail industry want to maintain investment in the railways to provide more trains, better stations and faster services. To do this there are two main sources of income: taxpayers or the fare-paying passenger.

Successive governments have decided that a bigger share of funding for the railway should come from the people who use it and a smaller share from taxpayers as a whole.

But it's important to remember that not all fares will go up. Some will stay the same as last year or even go down in price.

Why are you announcing this now?

Train companies have now set and published all 2013 ticket prices.

Every August, the Office for National Statistics releases the figure for inflation in July as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI). The government uses a formula, based on this figure, to set the average increase of regulated fares, almost half of all fares.

Train companies can then begin to work out the price of all fares (regulated and unregulated) in 2013 to meet their financial agreements with the government. With so many different journeys that can be made on National Rail services, this process takes some time.

When might I start to pay more?

The new prices come into effect from January 2.

What are the different types of fares?

Apart from season tickets, fares - whether single or return or First or Standard class - are grouped into three types:

Advance: must be booked in advance for a specific train service and can be bought up to the day before travel.

Anytime: can be bought right up to the time of travel and used on any train without any time restriction.

Off-Peak: for quieter periods of the day, these fares can be bought right up until the time of travel but have restrictions on the time, day or route of travel.

Around half of all fares - which include season tickets on most commuter journeys and Off-Peak tickets on most intercity journeys - are regulated by government, and the average increase in the price of these fares is set by government.

All other fares are unregulated. Train companies set the prices of these fares to make sure they are competitive with other types of transport customers can choose for these journeys, such as coach, car or plane.

Even unregulated fares are heavily influenced by government policy. Train companies have to meet tough financial commitments agreed with the government when franchise agreements are signed. For a number of years, these payments have been shaped by the government policy to reduce the share taxpayers pay towards the cost of running the railways.

What is the formula used to set season tickets?

RPI + 1%

Around half of all fares are linked by a government formula to July's inflation rate as measured by the retail price index (RPI), which was 3.2% this year. These fares are known as regulated tickets which include season tickets for most commuter journeys and Off-Peak fares on most journeys between our major cities.

Before 2004, government policy was to set regulated fares at July RPI minus one per cent, resulting in below inflation rises. Since 2004, the annual change in these fares has been set by the government at July RPI plus one per cent, leading to average fare rises higher than the rate of inflation every year since then. This means in 2013, season tickets and other regulated fares will rise on average by 4.2%.

Other fares, known as unregulated fares, are set by train operators. These fares apply where there is competition from other forms of transport; passengers will have a choice in how they travel, for example by train, car or coach. The overall increase of regulated and unregulated fares is 3.9%.

Where does the money go?

Revenue from fares pays for services and sustains investment in more trains, better stations and faster journeys.

For every pound of income that train companies receive, on average:

  • 48p goes to Network Rail (which charges train companies to run trains on the tracks) and other infrastructure costs
  • 17p goes on staff costs
  • 17p goes on miscellaneous costs (including train maintenance, administration, contractors)
  • 11p goes on leasing trains
  • 4p goes on fuel / energy
  • 3p goes to train company profit

Where does the money go? Click to enlarge

How much are prices going up by?

Fares for different journeys vary. You can check how much your usual ticket - or any ticket - for travel on National Rail services will cost from January 2 by visiting National Rail Enquiries.

The average increase is 3.9%.

Why are there different types of fares? It's too complicated.

Train companies offer a range of fares that meet different passenger needs, from fully flexible products to those with excellent discounts for travelling at quieter periods or on specific trains. By providing such a broad range of fares, train companies have attracted record numbers of passengers to the railways.

If the railways cost less to run, would my ticket price stop going up?

This is ultimately a decision for government, but train companies and the wider rail industry know that the key to limiting future fare rises in the long-term is to cut the cost per passenger of running the railway. That's why train companies are working with the government and with others in the industry to improve cost efficiency and deliver better value for money for both passengers and taxpayers.

Why do some season tickets go up by more than others?

While the government instructs train companies on the average rise in regulated fares, it expects operators to increase some fares by more than this and others by less in response to changes in demand on particular routes or at individual stations. However government rules apply a cap to the amount of revenue that can be raised in this way. This ensures the total money raised by a train company is no more or no less than the overall average increase in these regulated fares.

The rule means that train companies cannot put up fares on routes with the most passengers and reduce them where there are fewer passengers. Because, like a set of traditional kitchen scales, government rules say any changes must balance each other out, and the government also adopts a strict process to make sure that this rule is applied properly.

Are there any exceptions to this?

Yes, there are a few local exceptions to this. Merseyrail's franchise agreement with the local Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) pegs regulated fares to an average RPI plus 0. Northern Rail's agreement with West Yorkshire PTE pegs its regulated fares to an average RPI plus three per cent.

What can I do to save money?

There are lots of ways to save money on train travel. These include using a Railcard, travelling at quieter times, buying a season ticket, booking in advance, and using money-saving tools on websites. Click here for more information.