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Groups condemn rail fare increases


Some season ticket holders have faced rail fare increases of more than 20% in the life of this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport

Some season ticket holders have faced rail fare increases of more than 20% in the life of this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport

Some season ticket holders have faced rail fare increases of more than 20% in the life of this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport

This week's annual fare rise will mean some season ticket holders will have endured increases of more than 20% in the life of this Parliament, according to figures from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

The latest rise, which takes effect on Friday, will see regulated fares, which include season tickets, increasing by up to 2.5% and fares overall going up by an average of 2.2%.

Those commuting to London from Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, for example, will have to contend with a 2.43% rise, with their 2015 ticket going up to £4,888.

According to CBT, the cost of a Milton Keynes season ticket has risen 23.5%, or £930, since January 2010 and is one of a number of fares that have increased around four times more than average wages over this five-year period.

The CBT also highlighted the cost of a Newcastle to Middlesbrough season ticket, which will be £2,324 from Friday and has risen 26.3% since January 2010.

Other examples of large increases on season tickets since January 2010 given by CBT are Ashford International to London (up 22.0%), Oxford-London (up 22.0%), St Albans-London (up 22.0%), Leeds-Sheffield (up 23.5%), Leicester-Derby (up 22.5%) and Bristol-Bath (up 22.4%).

CBT said average wages had risen by just 6.9% since January 2010.

CBT's public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: "Yet again, the Government is hiking up commuter rail fares. Ticket prices are rising much faster than wages, which means getting to work takes up an increasing share of incomes, hitting both household budgets and the economy.

"The Government urgently needs to adopt a fairer approach to ticketing, bringing fares down and introducing more flexible tickets to help groups like the millions who work part-time."

Rail union the RMT has also bemoaned the fare rise, which comes at a time when commuters have had to contend with constant late autumn and early winter disruptions to rush-hour services.

Last weekend, over-running Christmas engineering work led to chaotic scenes at King's Cross, Paddington and Finsbury Park stations in London and threw the spotlight on Network Rail's (NR) top bosses' salary levels and bonus structure.

NR chief executive Mark Carne has since said he would not be taking his 2014/15 performance-related bonus that could have given him as much as £135,000.

The RMT today published figures which it said showed that UK taxpayers' subsidy to the railways, on top of fares, came to just over £4 billion in 2012/13.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "As the travelling public gear up for the new year fares hike, we are blowing away the myth that the extra cash is invested back into services when in fact it combines with taxpayer subsidies to fuel a £4 billion privatised rail rip-off that is a one-way ticket to the bank for the train companies."

He went on: "The scandal of the British people paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on clapped-out and overcrowded trains will be compounded by the new year average rise - an increase which dwarfs average pay increases and which will hit the poorest the hardest."

Mr Cash said the RMT would step up the fight for the renationalisation of the railways.

The January 2015 increase could have been even worse. For the second year running, the Government limited the rise to the RPI inflation rate (based on the July 2014 figure) rather than the set annual-rise formula of RPI plus 1%.

The Government has also scrapped the "flex" rule which allowed some regulated fares to go up by 2% above the RPI rate as long as the average for all fares did not exceed the set formula.

In previous years, the flex rule meant some fares could go up by more than 5% above the average.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said today: "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 recognise passengers' concerns about the cost of rail fares. This is why we have frozen them for the second year in a row. We are protecting passengers even further by stopping operating companies from increasing individual fares by up to 2% more."

Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, said: "Chancellor George Osborne has yet again frozen fuel duty for motorists and with oil prices falling dramatically, motoring is becoming cheaper in real terms and rail travel becoming more expensive.

"So don't be surprised if road congestion gets even worse along with pollution, accidents and global warming."

He went on: "Fares need to reflect reality in terms of inflation, and with the most recent figures for CPI inflation just 1% and falling, this represents yet another unfair squeezing of rail passengers' wallets.

"There's a real danger that further fare increases will deter passengers from travelling and reduce the rail industry's income, increasing the support required from government."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail operators and Network Rail, said: "At 2.2%, the average increase in fares in 2015 is the lowest for five years.

"We know that no one likes to pay more to go to work, but for every £1 spent on fares, 97p goes on track, train, staff and other costs while 3p goes in profits earned by train companies for running services on Europe's fastest-growing railway.

"While we know and are very sorry that many passengers did not get the service they deserved at the weekend, Network Rail is spending £38 billion over five years on a better railway alongside commitments made by train companies to improve services."

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