Rail passengers attack 'exploitative' fare rises

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FARE INCREASES of around twice the rate of inflation announced by British Rail yesterday were immediately branded as 'unreasonable and unacceptable' by the main passengers' organisation.

BR justified the rises by saying they were to make up for the reduction in passengers because of the recession and 'to meet additional safety and security costs'. These result, respectively, from the inquiry into the Clapham rail disaster and the bombing campaign by the IRA. Falling revenue from passenger journeys and property sales resulted in BR losing pounds 144m last year.

The Central Transport Consultative Committee, which represents rail passengers, said BR's action amounted to 'an exploitation of a monopoly position'.

The increases, which take effect on 3 January next year, cover two out of three of BR's operating companies, InterCity and Network SouthEast, and range from nothing for some special fares to 9.5 per cent for season ticket holders on lines with efficient services.

Fares on Regional Railways, which operates commuter and cross-country routes outside London, will be raised in May. Average increases of around 8.5 per cent, also from 3 January, were announced by London Transport for bus and Underground services.

The sharpest rises will be felt by commuters on Network SouthEast, seen by BR as having to accept increases because they have no alternative form of travel. While season ticket prices will rise by an average 7.5 per cent, the increase in off-peak fares is being held down to 5 per cent 'to help promote leisure travel'. Fare increases are designed to reflect the standard of performance and investment on lines.

Increases of 9.5 per cent are being imposed on four lines - Great Northern, Northampton, West Anglia and Chiltern - which have regularly met standards of punctuality and reliability set out in the Passenger's Charter.

In contrast, Network SouthEast's two worst performing lines, Kent Coast and Fenchurch Street to Tilbury, will have rises of only 5 per cent. However, some commuters may have their increases offset. Under the Passenger's Charter, season ticket holders on lines which fall below set levels of reliability can obtain a refund of 5 per cent. Currently the Kent Coast line is near its target of 79 per cent of trains arriving within five minutes of the advertised time.

InterCity, which last month announced measures designed to boost revenue, is increasing fares by an average 5 per cent. High increases are deliberately targeted at business passengers; some Saver fares and nearly all Apex fares remain the same. On average, Saver fares are going up by 4 per cent though many were raised in May.

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