Passengers rage at train fare rises

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The Independent Online

Passenger groups reacted with fury today to news that train fares will rise above the level of inflation in the new year.

Passenger groups reacted with fury today to news that train fares will rise above the level of inflation in the new year.

Regulated fares, which include season tickets and saver tickets, will be going up by an average of 4%, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said.

Unregulated fares, which include cheap day returns, will also rise by 4% on average, although some will be going up as much as 7.2%.

The Rail Passengers Council said today: "We have always argued that passengers should not be expected to pay more until performance improves.

"While there are signs of a gradual improvement on some routes, most passengers won't have noticed the kind of significant improvement to justify above-inflation rises."

The Conservatives were also scathing about the increases. Shadow transport secretary Tim Yeo said: "Labour's ten year transport plan promised rail users that they would 'seek real reductions in the cost of rail travel'. Labour broke that promise. Labour said they would continue to cap increases in most currently regulated fares at 1% below the rate of inflation. But this was all talk.

"With no improvement in services, and reliability still worse than in 1997, passengers are continuing to pay for Labour's failure to deliver."

Today's announcement from ATOC follows the Strategic Rail Authority fares regime announcement last June which allowed for regulated fares to increase by 1% above the July 2004 inflation rate of 3%.

Defending the fare rises today, ATOC director general George Muir said: "We are doing this because we have to increase the resources to pay for the huge investment going in to the railways.

"We need to build better railways in this country and this money will help do so."

He went on: "We are step by step delivering things to passengers. There has been a huge investment in the railways in recent years with £7 billion on the West Coast mainline which is going to deliver faster services up to Manchester in new, comfortable trains.

"Money is going in to the railways across the whole country in big schemes and small schemes."

He added that although the private sector was currently "investing heavily" in railways, the stream of cash would have to continue to flow to avoid problems in the future.

Mr Muir went on: "The railways are really fairly full yet passenger numbers continue to grow. Railways are a very popular way of travelling and there are going to be issues we will have to face in a few years' time about the bottlenecks on railways."