RAIL commuters face the prospect of at least a 5.8 per cent price rise in season tickets in the new year following yesterday’s inflation figures.

The increase could be more if, as some fear, the Government scraps the current price-rise formula.

Under the formula, train companies are allowed to raise regulated fares annually, which include season tickets, by 1 per cent above the previous July’s retail price index inflation figure. The RPI for July was 4.8 per ent, which would mean a 5.8 per cent fares rise in January, 2011.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond cannot say whether the RPI plus 1 per cent formula will remain, meaning fares could rise above 5.8 per cent.

Ashwin Kumar, rail director of train customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers continue to tell us their top priority for improvement on the railway is better value for money. Now is not the time for train companies to sweat passengers off the train.”

Passenger Focus said it would also like to see continued the policy of limiting the flexibility of train companies to increase fares on individual routes.

Mr Kumar added: “In the past, the average fare rise has masked increases on some routes of 10 or 11 per cent. We hope the Government continues to limit train companies’ flexibility so passengers don’t face double-digit rises.”