PASSENGERS could be driven off the rails by proposed fare increases for next year.

Councillors, politicians, transport experts and passengers in Dorset have hit out at the announcement that rail fares across the country will rise by 6.2 per cent in January – about double the rate of inflation.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation in July – which stood at 3.2 per cent – is used to calculate the rises and some English fares will rise by RPI plus three per cent.

Councillor Christine James, transport spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council , said: “The service provided doesn’t match the fares people are being asked to pay. If train fares were more reasonable more people might want to use the trains more.

“A return to London is about £70 – it’s a lot more expensive than driving and parking. Train links in the south west aren’t great and I can’t blame people who choose to use their cars.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “I’m very concerned at this price rise, especially as train fares have been going up successively over the last ten years. Some are the highest in Europe.

“If prices continue to rise they will inevitably force passengers off the trains and onto the roads.”

ccAndy Hutchings, a transport campaigner in Weymouth, said: “It’s regrettable that once again rail passengers will be affected by this above-inflation increase which is due to go on for a few more years. Will this help the over-crowding and delays on trains?

“Successive governments have said the extra money will be used for infrastructure improvements but still nothing has been done about the single link from Dorchester to Poole.”

David Redgewell, of the South West Transport Network, said: “From a passenger perspective the fares are just too high and it’s going to make fares unaffordable to the vast majority of the public in Dorset.

“We have to get the government to reconsider as they did last year.

“If people are going to get out of their cars and come to visit Weymouth on the train then we need affordable fares.

“Affordable public transport in west Dorset is not a luxury – people need it to get to work.

“The county council is encouraging integrated travel and we need to make it affordable.

“Weymouth needs a good rail service to keep the local economy going.

“It shouldn’t be that you have reduced fares during the Olympics – it should be for everybody 360 days a year.”

'We understand these are tough times'

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said: “The government decides the average increase of commuter ticket prices and other regulated fares which train companies will be required to introduce in January 2013.

“It has been government policy during the past eight years for passengers to pay a larger share of the cost of operating the railways and to focus taxpayers’ money on investing in longer term improvements to the network. Any flexibility train companies have within the rules is to maximise revenue for the government.”

A spokesman for First Great Western said: “We understand that these are tough times for many people but the money raised by government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services.”