BOLTON rail passengers travelling on the first working day of 2018 today are being hit with the largest fare rise in five years.

Average ticket prices across Britain went up by 3.4 per cent at midnight and protests are planned at about 40 railway stations, including Manchester Piccadilly, to mark the increase — the biggest since 2013.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union plans to hand out chocolates to passengers in a bid to “sweeten the bitter pill” of the price increase.

Season ticket commuter route prices that are now more expensive include Liverpool to Manchester (up £108 to £3,152).

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), accused the Government of choosing to “snub rail passengers” by continuing to raise fares while fuel duty is frozen for a seventh consecutive year.

He added: “The extra money that season ticket holders will have to fork out this year is almost as much as drivers will save. That doesn’t seem fair to us or the millions of people who commute by train, especially as wages continue to stagnate.

A Department for Transport spokesman argued: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times.”