By Daniel Hunter

Increases in rail fares in England and Wales come into effect today (Friday).

Regulated rail fares, including season tickets, have gone up by 2.5%, while the average fair in the UK is up 2.2%.

It has led to trade unions complaining that prices are going up faster than wages. But the government says that raising fail fares is crucial to funding modernisation of the UK's railways.

The Campaign for Better Transport pointed to the example of a season ticket between Milton Keynes and London, which has gone up by 23.5%, or £930, since January 2010, reaching almost £5,000.

The campaign said this was one of a number of fares which has seen prices go up by four times faster than wages.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said British rail fares were among the highest in Europe.

She said: "This year's fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly.

"Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people's wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses."

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The scandal of Britain's great rail fares rip-off continues with today's hike far outstripping average pay increases, and it will once again hit those at the sharp end of the austerity clampdown the hardest."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation since the Victorian era and fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements.

"This is because building better infrastructure helps create jobs, building a stronger economy for us all.

"We are protecting passengers even further by stopping operating companies from increasing individual fares by up to 2% more."

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