Anger as rail fares rise above inflation

RAIL PASSENGER groups have today spoken out against big train fare hikes which come into effect this weekend.

Average train fares in East Anglia will go up by 5.9pc from Sunday as rail companies increase their prices by more than the rate of inflation under a Government-set formula.

But the average rise masks individual ticket hikes which are much higher in places, with an anytime return fare from Norwich to London going up by a massive 13.5pc, from �82 to �93.10, and a number of cheap day returns from Suffolk to London going up by around 8pc.

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users' Assocation, said: 'I think it's really hurting people at the moment.

'It's going to be very difficult to afford these increases, but the problem is people don't have a choice. There's no other viable alternative especially for going to London so theoretically, they can charge what they like and people have to pay it.

'People are so dissatisfied with the service generally that to be told to pay more is kicking them while they're down.'

Britain has the highest rail fares in Europe, with prices around a fifth higher on average and season tickets costing up to twice as much compared with other European cities.

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Dr Alexandra Woodsworth from the Campaign for Better Transport said: 'We've got VAT rising, pay freezes and really tough times, so it's quite outrageous to be asking passengers to pay so much more.

'Commuters are the ones being really hard hit here - if people can't afford to commute into London or other big cities, that's not good for our competitiveness compared to the rest of Europe.

'We have heard of people choosing to change jobs or not go back to work because they are looking at whether it makes financial sense to pay for the commute.

'Some people are being priced off the train and it's forcing them back onto our roads, which will increase congestion and traffic.'

And according to Dr Woodsworth, the situation is set to get even worse next year when rail companies will be able to increase their fares by 3pc above inflation, rather than the current 1pc, under new rules announced in the recent spending review.

The Campaign for Better Transport will be launching a new initiative - Fair Fares Now - on Tuesday calling for the Government to reverse its decision which they say could see fares up 31pc in 2015 compared to current prices.

An anytime return from Ipswich to London will go up from �64.90 to �68.10, an increase of nearly 5pc, while a similar open return from Diss to London will go from �81.10 to �85.20.