Passengers attack rail fare rises without improvement

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Inflation-busting rail fare increases averaging 4 per cent came into force yesterday. The rises, some of which are as high as 7.2 per cent, were attacked by passenger action groups, who claimed they were brought in before any improvements could be seen in services.

Inflation-busting rail fare increases averaging 4 per cent came into force yesterday. The rises, some of which are as high as 7.2 per cent, were attacked by passenger action groups, who claimed they were brought in before any improvements could be seen in services.

The rises took effect as Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, said in an interview with The Independent that he was opposed to using fare increases as a way of pricing people off overcrowded commuter lines. "I am dead against a policy that says put it up," he said. But he acknowledged that in 15 or 30 years' time more people would be using road and rail because of "demographic problems".

On the trains, the largest increase, of 7.2 per cent, was levied on Silverlink services to Euston in London - while the lowest rise, of 2 per cent, was introduced by Hull Trains on all of its services. Inflation is currently running at 2.7 per cent.

Train operators said that the increases were needed for improving the network. George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Fares have to rise to pay for huge investment which the rail industry is currently making in the railways - which is the fastest growing in Europe."

Caroline Jones, a spokeswoman for the Rail Passengers' Council, said: "Most passengers don't want to pay more for the same service now. What they want to see is that the investment going in is put into getting the trains running on time."

The regulated fares were set by the Strategic Rail Authority and include season and saver tickets. It was a similar picture on unregulated fares such as cheap day returns, long-distance open tickets and advance purchases.

The cost of travel on Tubes and buses in London also rose sharply yesterday, with fares on some bus routes going up by as much as 43 per cent.

The rises coincide with increased use of both capital bus services and national rail routes. The railways carried nearly one million extra passengers a week in 2004 compared with the previous year.

Mr Darling acknowledged that tackling overcrowding on trains was a priority, adding that the Government was considering a high-speed rail link between London and the North of England or Scotland to "increase capacity".

"Is it better to spend more on conventional trains like on the west coast main line or is it better to spend more on a high-speed line? That is one of the issues we have to look at."

Mr Darling said the line would not be a stopping service but would link major cities. "High-speed lines don't work if they stop every hundred miles. They only work if they are running from London to Paris, or London to Newcastle."

Mr Darling also revealed the Government was about to make £2bn available to help develop innovative ways of cutting congestion - including road pricing. "That money is to finance innovative schemes for tackling congestion," he said. The Government is planning pilot road pricing schemes to be tested in areas around Britain.

Alistair Darling interview, page 21

Leading article, page 22

Comments