RAIL fares are set to rise in the New Year, with commuters hit by the largest fares hike in five years.

Average ticket prices across Britain will go up by 3.4 per cent on January 2, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

It is the sharpest rise since 2013, when fares increased by 3.9 per cent.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus compared the news to "a chill wind" blowing down platforms as many passengers' incomes are stagnating or falling.

Average prices for operators in Scotland include Virgin Trains East Coast which is set to increase by 3.4 per cent, and Virgin Trains West Coast which is set for 3.3 per cent increase.

Figures released by TransPennine Express show it will increase by 4.6 per cent.

Those for CrossCountry rail were not immediately available, while Caledonian Sleep confirmed it was not a regulated fares franchise so would not be changing any fares in January.

Earlier in the year, it was announced that ticket prices for ScotRail were set to increase by 3.6 per cent in Scotland for season tickets and peak-time travel, with average prices set for a 3.2 per cent increase overall.

Selected regulated peak fares, including Anytime and Season tickets, are set to the level of the Retail Price Index (RPI), and one per cent below RPI for regulated Off-Peak fares.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: "We are currently undertaking a review of the National Transport Strategy, which will consider our long-term approach to ensuring the affordability of transport across Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is investing £5 billion to 2019 to help transform infrastructure in Scotland. We want to see more people take the train and we recognise that this means prices have to be affordable and fair.”

Both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens said the rise in ticket prices showed the need for a publicly owned railway.