Lowestoft rail travellers face fares hike

COMMUTERS have reacted with anger to news that rail prices in East Anglia are set to rise by an average of 6 per cent next year.

National Express East Anglia, which operates the rail network across the region, including the Lowestoft-Norwich line, the east Suffolk Line between Lowestoft and Ipswich and the mainline from Norwich to London, made the announcement yesterday.

Despite being told it was to be stripped of the franchise, the company has been given a temporary extension until next year and has revealed that ticket prices will be going up by an average of 5.9 per cent in January.

The company said the rise reflected Government policy and would allow it to continue to invest in the network.

A spokesman said: 'National Express East Anglia train fares will rise by an average of 5.9 per cent in January. These increases reflect Government policy in helping to sustain continued investment in the railways.'

But last night Neil Skinner, of the Manningtree Rail Users' Association, said it was unfair to punish commuters who had no other choice but to use trains to get to work.

He said: 'The problem is that, especially on this line, the vast majority of people commute and don't have a choice (on their mode of transport).

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'It's a captive audience and there's not a lot the average commuter can do about it and it's so unfair that they are being targeted in this way – especially when the service is quite often sub-standard.'

Rail users in some parts of the country face rises of 13% and the Association of Train Operating Companies said it was necessary to ensure Britain 'could continue investing in the railways'.

Transport union TSSA said the increases were 'simply outrageous', while the RMT union said passengers would be paying 'inflation-busting increases to travel on overcrowded services'.

And rail passenger group London TravelWatch, which represents travellers in and around the capital, warned that the 'dramatic rise' could drive passengers off trains.

London TravelWatch spokeswoman Jo deBank said: 'The huge fare rises will hit passengers particularly hard in what is a difficult time for many people. We are alarmed that this dramatic rise could drive passengers off trains.'