I recognise the concerns raised relating to the affordability of transport at this very difficult time. I know these concerns are shared at the heart of Government and tangible action is therefore being taken on bus and rail fares to help millions of people travel at reduced cost during this challenging period.
As you may know, rail fares are rising by 5.9 per cent for 2023. This well below the current retail price index (RPI) inflation and 6.4 percentage points below the July 2022 RPI on which these fares are historically based. Normally, the Government increases fares by RPI plus one per cent each year, but this formula has not been applied in 2023 as it wasn't in 2022. Capping rail fares at 5.9 per cent strikes a fair balance, ensuring that the Government can continue to invest in a more modern, reliable railway, while easing the burden on taxpayers and protecting passengers from the highest retail price inflation in years. Further, the Government has delayed fare increases by three months to March 2023, giving passengers more time to purchase cheaper flexible and season tickets at the existing rate.
Over the long-term, it is important to note that rail fare revenue is crucial to funding day-to-day railway operations and wider rail investment, which benefits passengers across the country. In recent years, rail operators have been investing in more trains, better stations and faster journeys.
In September 2022, the Government announced that it will provide up to £60 million from the beginning of January until the end of March 2023 to enable bus operators cap single adult fares at £2 per journey. This cap has been delivered as part of the Help for Households initiative which is designed to help passengers with travel costs for work, education, shopping and medical treatments over the winter months while they are facing pressures from the rising cost of living.
Over 130 bus operators outside of London now charge no more than £2 for their single tickets across over 4,600 routes.
Bus fares vary across different parts of the country and between bus operators, and can even reach almost £6 for a single journey in rural areas. The new cap means passengers in those areas could save more than £60 a month if they took 4 single trips a week. The average single fare for a 3-mile journey is estimated at over £2.80, meaning that the new fare will save passengers almost 30 per cent of the price on every occasion they travel.
A bus operator's decision not to participate is a matter for the organisation in question.
Although I am not currently aware of any plans to make specific provision for children as part of the temporary £2 bus fare cap, I will ensure ministerial colleagues are aware of the concerns raised on this subject.