LARGE fare hikes on the district’s trains next month could drive commuters back to their cars, rail users’ groups are warning.

Average ticket prices across Britain will go up by 3.4 per cent on January 2, making it the biggest increase in five years, according to industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

Tim Calow, chairman of the Aire Valley Rail Users’ Group, said it was “difficult times” on the tracks where there were cost pressures on the railways but also on passengers’ money.

He said: “It’s a difficult time. Earnings are not going up but cost pressures on the railways are. People do have choices and the risk is that people will switch to using their cars. This would be a big issue for cities like Bradford and Leeds where there is already a problem with air pollution. It would also affect people health-wise. They are reasons alone why we need to encourage people to use public transport but hiking up train fares will do the opposite.”

James Vasey from Bradford Rail Users’ Group, said people would object to increased train fares above the inflation rate.

“People will want to see what they are getting extra. Where’s my new train? We are not seeing that yet in West Yorkshire. We are not seeing that improvement to the service. Some people looking at costs could revert to their cars.”

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus has compared the news to “a chill wind” blowing down platforms as many passengers’ incomes are stagnating or falling.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days.”

One in nine trains failed to meet the rail industry’s punctuality target in the past 12 months which means they arrived at terminating stations more than five minutes late for commuter services or 10 minutes late for long-distance journeys, says Transport Focus.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has described the fares announcement as “another kick in the teeth” for passengers.

The Government uses the previous July’s Retail Prices Index measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares, which was 3.6 per cent.

These are around half of all tickets and include season tickets on most commuter routes and some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys. The RDG said more than 97p in every pound from fares goes back into improving and running the railway.

Chief executive Paul Plummer noted that the Government controls increases to almost half of fares while the rest are “heavily influenced” by the payments train companies make as part of contracts to run franchises.

The RDG highlighted that private investment in rail reached a record £925 million in 2016/17.