Fares and penalty fares

We not the regulator for fares and have no role in relation to penalty fares.

If you have concerns about the cost of your ticket, first contact the train operator.

Some fares are regulated by government, who controls their price, while others are not, and train operators are free to set them.

Regulated fares

The price of these fares is regulated by Government:

The amount an individual regulated fare can rise is linked to the Retail Prices Index (RPI). Since 2014, the fare increase has been capped at the RPI. The cap for 2016 was set equal to July 2015’s RPI of 1%. The cap for 2017 was set equal to July 2016’s RPI of 1.9%.

For an indication of which fare types are regulated, please see the Strategic Rail Authority's (SRA) Fares Review Conclusions 2003.

Please note the SRA has now been abolished, but the bodies that took on its responsibilities for fares regulation continue this policy.

The names of some types of fares (from the Fares Review) have changed since this document was published. Please see the National Rail Enquiries website for more details.

Unregulated fares

The price of these is set by train companies on a commercial basis.

To complain about an increase in the price of an unregulated train fare, first contact the relevant train operator. Contact details for train companies can be found on the National Rail Enquiries website.

Train operators employ a commercial strategy in setting fares. If a train operator's commercial strategy runs contrary to the broader public interest, it is for the government to consider as part of its fares policy.

We enforce the Competition Act 1998, which makes it illegal for companies to do certain things, such as use their powerful position in the market to take advantage of consumers or fix prices. We may conduct an investigation if we have reasonable grounds to suspect the law has been broken.

For more information on how competition law applies to fare pricing, please read our guide on Complaints about rail fares and car-park charges – the role of competition law. If after reading this guide, you are concerned that a company may have breached competition law, you can report it to us.

Penalty fares

ORR has no role in relation to penalty fares schemes. General rules concerning penalty fares are set out in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage (NRCoC).

Train companies publish their own penalty fares schemes, which must be approved by the Department for Transport.

If you have been charged a penalty fare and wish to appeal, contact the relevant train operating company and use its appeal system.

You may also consider seeking advice from Transport Focus or London TravelWatch, who may be able to help. However, they cannot take up your complaint until you have contacted the relevant train company and given them a chance to respond, and you should enclose all previous correspondence with the train company/retailer.

Further information