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Flood-hit train passengers now swamped by price rises

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 03, 2013

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Rail travellers across Devon and Cornwall were yesterday hit in the pocket as inflation-busting fare rises took effect.

Regulated fares, which include season tickets, are increasing by an average of 4.2%, while the overall average rise for all tickets is 3.9%.

An annual season ticket between Plymouth and Exeter St David's when the average increase is applied is now £3,000 – about £125 more expensive than last year.

The rise follows a miserable few weeks for many commuters who have had to contend with floods. Disruption continues between Exeter St David's and Barnstaple, with a normal service not expected to run until Friday at the earliest.

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Campaign groups have pointed out the increase is the tenth successive above- inflation rise, with some rail season ticket-holders seeing their fares rise by more than 50% in the last ten years.

Regulated fares in England are capped at the inflation figure – 3.2% – plus 1%. However, train companies can put some of these tickets up by more than 4.2% as long as the overall average does not exceed the cap. Labour has accused ministers of misleading commuters after scrapping a proposed inflation-plus-3% ceiling. The level of increase on non-regulated fares is at the discretion of operators.

According to campaign group Passenger Focus, rises to anytime return fares include:

London to Plymouth on First Great Western: was £252, now £263 (up 4.4%)

London to Exeter on First Great Western: was £220, now £229 (up 4.1%)

London to Weymouth on South West Trains: was £61.40, now £64 (up 4.2%)

Off-peak return increases:

London to Plymouth on First Great Western: was £103, now £111.50 (up 8.3%)

London to Exeter on First Great Western: was £91, now £98 (up 7.7%)

Annual season ticket rates:

Barnstaple to Exeter St David's on First Great Western: was £1,780, now £1,856 (up 4.3%)

St Austell to Truro on First Great Western: was £836, now £872 (up 4.3%)

First Great Western (FGW), which holds the franchise to run inter-city mainline and branch line services in the Westcountry, said the comparison with off-peak tickets from January last year was unfair as the 2012 price hike was delayed until May.

The rail firm also argued shifting the burden of funding the railways on to passengers and away from taxpayers is a result of the Government's "plus 1%" ticket pricing formula.

Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "In the current economic climate, already hard-pressed passengers who face these rises will feel the pinch."

He added: "The passenger going to buy their ticket on a cold January morning won't be paying an 'average fare' – they will be paying a fare that may have gone up by more than that."

Chris Irwin, chairman of TravelWatch SouthWest, said: "This is really a stealth tax. It goes straight to the Treasury coffers rather than train companies. It is a tax on people who want to get jobs and need to travel. And it's a tax on road users as more people will be forced from using rail and onto roads, making roads busier."

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