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Anger over increased station parking charges

Rail companies were today accused of increasing station car parking charges by up to 50 per cent to offset January's small cut in rail fares.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) accused Virgin Trains of raising charges by between 25 per cent and 50 per cent for the 10,000 car parking spaces along the busy West Coast line between London and Glasgow.

Annual parking tickets have risen from £655 to £980, a 50 per cent increase, said the union.

The TSSA also accused First Great Western, which runs services between Bristol and London, of increasing its car parking charges by up to 30 per cent.

Annual charges at Reading Station were going up from £1,265 to £1,644, said officials.

"It is outrageous that passengers have to pay huge increases in car parking fees just so the rail companies can offset the tiny 0.4 per cent cut in regulated fares that they will be forced to make in January," said union general secretary Gerry Doherty.

"Passengers are paying now for the tiny benefit they will get in the New Year. This is in effect a back door fares increase which is not covered by the regulated fares formula.

"The rail companies are picking the pockets of millions of passengers simply because they can get away with it."

The TSSA said Virgin Trains were increasing their daily parking rate at mainline stations from £6 to £8 (a 25 per cent rise), monthly from £70 to £98 (25 per cent) and annually from £655 to £980(50 per cent).

A TSSA survey in May revealed that the private rail companies were making over £100 million a year from car parking charges.

Mr Doherty called on Transport Secretary Lord Adonis to include car parking charges in the annual rail fares formula which limits increases to only 1 per cent above RPI, saying: "This is the only way we will stop the rail companies ripping off their captive audience."

A spokesman for Virgin said the union was ignoring the tens of millions of pounds spent increasing car parking spaces.

"Off peak and weekend charges are being reduced so it will be much cheaper to park then.

"They are picking on the most expensive and ignoring the many reductions."

He added that safety has been improved with better lighting and CCTV and said car parking charges had not gone up for five years.

"We have doubled the number of spaces this year. People want somewhere to park with better lighting and security which comes at a cost."

He said charges based on other parking facilities available locally to the stations.

"We feel the rises are justified. A lot of money is being spent."