BELEAGUERED rail passengers have reacted angrily to the prospect of an eight per cent new year ticket price hike.

Under a much criticised new pricing system, rail companies can charge up to three per cent above inflation.

The Retail Prices Index remained at five per cent yesterday, which means Dorset commuters are facing huge ticket increases in 2012.

As hard-pressed families – already struggling with rising food, petrol and energy costs –- take stock of their post Christmas finances – they’ll discover an standard annual season ticket, from Poole to London Waterloo, has risen by £441.60 Currently the standard annual season ticket into Waterloo costs £5,520 from Poole and £5,424 from Bournemouth.

Bournemouth commuters look likely to pay an extra £433.92 for their annual travel into the capital next year.

Speaking from Poole railway station, commuter Robert Hellier said: “This is simply unfair for hard working people.

“All that is going to happen is you’ll get more people abandoning public transport, creating more road congestion and a bigger environmental problem.

“It is clearly going to be difficult for people to manage as most wages are either frozen or rising slower than inflation.

“Meanwhile, the costs of everything else is rising.”

His sentiments were echoed by other rail users.

Iain Conner, a company director, told the Daily Echo: “Public transport is meant to be for everyone, but ordinary families are being priced out.

“All that will happen is people will not be able to travel. For small businesses this has a knock on as well. In many cases, businesses meet the costs of their employees’ travel. So this will mean higher bills for them.

“This is not the way to stimulate economic growth at a time when it is needed.”

Passenger groups have rounded on the inflation-busting fare rises faced by Dorset commuters.

Director of watchdog Passenger Focus, David Sidebottom, said: “The way that train companies are allowed to set fares on individual routes is deeply unfair.

“Some passengers, who may have seen no investment or improvements, can get hit year after year.

“Passenger Focus will forcefully advocate change to this system in the government’s forthcoming fares review.”

RMT transport union members were at Waterloo station yesterday to support demonstrations against the increased fares.

A RMT-commissioned report by research company Just Economics said rail privatisation had “bled £6.6 billion out of the rail industry since 1997”.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow has attacked the government for “forcing through inflation-busting fare increases and savage cuts to maximise private train company profits”.

In Poole, rail user Des Phillips, said: “I think the railways should never have been privatised.

“Fares have gone up and up ever since and there is no consistency because of all the different companies.

“Privatisation has not helped the ordinary commuter.”

A Department of Transport spokesman said the scale of the deficit meant the government had to take some “very difficult decisions on future rail fares” but the long-term solution was to reduce railway running costs.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled the new fares formula as part of last autumn’s comprehensive spending review.