THERE was some relief for Huntingdonshire’s rail commuters this week with the Prime Minister’s announcement of average increases in regulated fares being controlled at July RPI plus one per cent for the next two years, instead of the planned RPI plus three per cent.

That means increases to be announced later in the year by First Capital Connect, which operates train services to and from Huntingdon and St Neots stations, will average no more than 4.2 per cent in January.

Regulated fares, which include most season tickets and off-peak long-distance prices, account for about half the journeys made on Britain's passenger railways.

But FCC stressed that the extra money raised was kept by the Government, ring-fenced for future railway investment.

Details of the rises have not yet been calculated, a spokesman said.

The Association of Train Operating Companies, which speaks for all passenger train operators, said: "The Government's change in policy is a positive move for passengers because it will mean lower than expected fare rises. All the extra money that ministers had instructed train companies to raise through the planned, higher increases in regulated fares would have gone to the Government.

"It is the government, not train companies, that decides how much season tickets should rise on average each year. For almost a decade, successive governments have instructed train companies every year to increase these regulated fares on average by more than inflation.

"In doing so, ministers have been seeking to cut the contribution from taxpayers towards the running costs of the railway and increase the share paid by passengers."