Train operators accused of raising fares 'by stealth'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Train companies are being accused of pushing up fares "by stealth" despite insisting that prices are unchanged. Inter-city operators in particular are increasing the number of services where "bargain" walk-on tickets are not valid.

Train companies are being accused of pushing up fares "by stealth" despite insisting that prices are unchanged. Inter-city operators in particular are increasing the number of services where "bargain" walk-on tickets are not valid.

From Monday, passengers with "saver" tickets for Midland Mainline services between London, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds, for instance, will find for the first time that a number of return services are not available to them. Tighter restrictions are to be imposed on the even cheaper "supersaver" fares.

Some passengers will have to pay more than twice what they are paying at the moment. A supersaver ticket from Sheffield to London, returning between 4pm and 4.55pm, currently costs £42. To make the same journey after these changes will require a ticket costing £92. Midland Mainline argues that the new arrangements are to minimise overcrowding on trains returning from London.

Great North Eastern Railways (GNER), the company operating the flagship east coast main line, is also reducing the number of trains for which discount fares are available. Under a new timetable, an early-morning express from Edinburgh to London will leave Newcastle and York 18 minutes earlier and as a consequence "savers" are no longer valid. It costs £79 to catch the present train from Newcastle, compared with £157 for the slightly earlier service from 1 October. The fare from York nearly doubles from £63.20 to £122. A spokesman for GNER said the train would arrive in London before 10.30am and was thus a peak-time service.

Within the past few years other inter-city operators such as Virgin and Great Western have also increased restrictions on their discount "turn-up-and-go" fares. Virgin has abolished supersaver fares.

Mick Duncan of the lobbying group Transport 2000 accused the companies of raising fares " by stealth". He said: "Walk-on fares in the UK are already among the most expensive in the world and the operators are continuing to make the situation worse."

A spokesman for the Rail Passengers' Council, the statutory watchdog for the industry, said: "The train operators often claim they have consulted people, but in the case of the increase by Midland Mainline, they simply gave advance warning last week."

Barry Doe, an independent travel consultant, believes train companies operating on commuter routes in London and the South-east are about to resort to fare increases by stealth. The Strategic Rail Authority has ordered the companies in the region to reduce the cost of standard fares and season tickets by 1.4 per cent, but Mr Doe suggests the operators will probably increase restrictions on off-peak fares to pay for the forced reductions.

Comments