Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has blamed trade unions for the annual hike in rail fares during an interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning.

His remarks came after the cost of many rail season tickets rose by more than £100 due to the 3.1 percent average increase in fares on Wednesday, despite punctuality running at a 13-year low.

The MP for Epsom and Ewell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The reality is the fare increases are higher than they should be because the unions demand - with threats of national strikes, but they don't get them - higher pay rises than anybody else.

"Typical pay rises are more than 3 percent and that's what drives the increases.

"These are the same unions that fund the Labour Party."

Mr Grayling marked the increase in fares by announcing that a new railcard to extend child fares to 16 and 17-year-olds will be available in time for the new academic year in September.

A railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds goes on general sale at noon on Wednesday.

He claimed the Government's "record investment" in the rail network will help passengers get the "frequent, affordable and reliable journeys they deserve".

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald claimed the latest increases are "an affront to everyone who has had to endure years of chaos on Britain's railways".

Labour has pledged to return the railways to public ownership and called for prices to be frozen on the worst performing routes.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said fare payers are being "battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering".

A rail campaign group described the latest fares rise as "another kick in the wallet" for passengers.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, acknowledged "nobody wants to pay more for their journey to work", but insisted money from fares is being used to "build the better railway customers want".