Campaign launched against rail fare hikes

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The Independent Online

A campaign against "unfair rail fares", including protests at 40 key commuter stations, was launched today.

Organised by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), it will highlight the fact that train season tickets are likely to rise by an average of around 8% in January 2012.

Rail travellers will learn the extent of their new year pain next month when the July inflation figures are published.

Until now, the annual new year rise in regulated fares, which include season tickets, has been limited to the RPI inflation rate plus 1%, with July's RPI figure determining the following January's rise.

But the Government has increased the price formula to RPI plus 3% for January 2012, with similar rises set for January 2013 and January 2014.

With RPI currently running at 5%, this means that commuters will be forking out an average of around 8% extra for their season tickets in January 2012.

The CBT said it was launching a national petition against the fare rises.

CBT public transport campaigner Alexandra Woodsworth said today: "Ministers have rushed to provide help for motorists to cope with rising fuel prices, but they are hitting train travellers with astronomical fare hikes. This is a deeply unfair blow to rail commuters and others who rely on public transport.

"Everyone is struggling with rising costs, not just drivers. The Government is reviewing its policy on train fares at the moment and our campaign this summer will show how just how many people oppose their punitive fare hikes."

Gerry Doherty, the leader of the TSSA rail union, said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who had promised a rail fare cut before last year's General Election, had "betrayed passengers".

Mr Doherty said: "It is not too late to cancel these increases which are grossly unfair to millions of working people who are facing pay freezes and, in some cases, pay cuts.

"The Government has the next month to come to a sensible decision and stop penalising passengers who are already paying the highest fares in Europe.

"If they don't, commuters in south east England will have to find hundreds of pounds to meet the extra cost of buying a season ticket in the new year."

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "We understand that these are tough times for many people but the Government has decided that taxpayers should pay less and passengers more towards the overall cost of running the railways.

"The Government is working with the rail industry to cut costs, but in the meantime it is allowing fares to rise to ensure that investment in extra trains, better stations and faster services can continue."

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