Rail passengers facing fares hike

PUBLISHED: 07:58 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 09:07 06 July 2010

Recession hit rail passengers in Norfolk could be facing yet another hike in fares as train companies outlined plans to put up prices again in a move branded “scandalous” by campaigners.

Recession hit rail passengers in Norfolk could be facing yet another hike in fares as train companies outlined plans to put up prices again in a move branded “scandalous” by campaigners.

Several companies are planning to increase the cost of tickets, where rises are not capped by the government, to make up an expected shortfall in fares.

East Midlands, which operates on key routes out of Norwich to Nottingham and the north, is looking push up fares by 5pc on journeys just outside the morning and evening peak.

However a spokesman for the company said that the final decision on which routes would be subject to the increase has not yet been made.

First Capital Connect which operates trains from King's Lynn to Cambridge and London is also putting up fares but not on these lines.

Passengers using National Express East Coast, which runs lines from London to Leeds and is a sister company to National Express East Anglia, the Norwich to London operator, will be hardest hit.

They will see some tickets soar by 11pc next month, although as a concession, anyone booking these fares via the internet will get a 10pc discount.

It will push up the cost of a trip from Skipton in Yorkshire to London from £13.50 to £15 for a ticket bought in advance.

Other companies also understood to be planning a round of rises are First Great Western, and Arriva CrossCountry. However the amount of the proposed rises has yet to be disclosed.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the consumer watchdog, Passenger Focus, said: “I think passengers will be exasperated by this. For years they have faced fare rises and now in a recession they are going up again.

“Train operators are in danger of driving passengers away.”

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the Transport and Salaried Staffs' Association rail union, said: “This is a real rip off even by the low standards of the rail companies when it comes to jacking up fares.

“This mean that off peak fares and advance tickets will have jumped by more than 16pc in just five months. This is a real scandal and it must be stopped.”

But Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, said: “They are private companies and have to make the right decision in there own commercial interests.

“There is a range of fares out there and people have to look at them to make the right choice.”

The move comes at a time when the industry knows that it is likely to be forced to cut commuter fares at the end of the year.

In almost all cases any rise on fares regulated by the government which account for 62pc of ticket revenue and include season tickets and many off peak journeys, is limited to 1pc above the retail price index.

That is now in the negative so they will have to come down next January, leaving rail companies with a hole in their finances.

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