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Leicestershire train fares - Train users to 'shiver' at rises

Leicestershire - Train users to 'shiver' at rises

New year rail fare rises which see some tickets go up by more than the rate of inflation will make passengers "shudder and shiver", a watchdog has said.

Regulated and unregulated fares in England, Scotland and Wales are to increase by averages of 6% and 7% respectively from 2 January.

But Passenger Focus said such high rises looked "very out of kilter" in the current economic climate.

Train companies have pledged the extra revenue will be reinvested.

Regulated fares - including season tickets - are generally based on a set formula which limits increases to 1% above retail price index (RPI) inflation, although there are some exceptions.

Passengers have been particularly hard hit this year because the rises are based on last July's RPI of 5%, a figure which has since dropped to 3%.

Passengers reliant on Southeastern services between London and Kent and Sussex will suffer further, as they will see their fares rise by an average of 8% - 2% more than the national average.

The firm said it needed extra funds to pay for high-speed domestic services in Kent, due to be introduced this year.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, condemned the scale of the increases.

"Many passengers will shudder and shiver when they find out the scale of some new year fare rises," he said.

"Average rises for regulated fares are 6%, unregulated 7% but inflation is currently well below this.

"Fare rises that hark back to a time of high inflation and spiralling energy costs look very out of kilter."

'Reduced investment'

He also criticised what he described as the "perpetual tinkering" with ticket restrictions which he said constituted "back-door fare rises".

The government's policy is to increase fares above inflation and reduce the contribution from the taxpayer.

But Passenger Focus has called on ministers and train companies to halt any further fare increases and limit the range within which regulated fares are allowed to rise.

"Big rises simply cannot be justified in more normal times let alone the current economic climate," Mr Smith said.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, said ministers should be encouraging people to use trains more, not deterring them.

"The government's policy is to reduce its investment in the railways and make passengers pay more," he said.

"Instead, it should invest more, regulate fares so they don't rise above inflation and make it easy for people to reduce their carbon footprint."

CrossCountry, whose network covers 1,500 miles (2,414 km) and stretches from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted to Cardiff, has the highest increase for its unregulated fares.

These include advance and leisure bookings, at 11%. By contrast, London Midland has frozen these fares.

'Rail commitment'

Other companies with big unregulated-fare increases are First Capital Connect - up an average of 9%, Chiltern - up 7.5%, National Express East Coast - up 7.4% and South West Trains - up 7.2%.

However, Channel Tunnel rail operator Eurostar said its lead-in fare of just £59 return would remain the same in 2009. It has not changed since March 2003.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), said the average increases amounted to just £1 or £2 a day for many season ticket holders.

Commuting by rail was still "considerably less expensive than commuting by car - even allowing for falling petrol prices", he added.

Atoc says additional revenues from fares means train companies are able to deliver better value for taxpayers in line with government policy as well as ensure passengers pay a greater share of costs by reducing public subsidy.

02 January 2009

Courtesy: BBC News

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