‘Fair fares’ campaigners to protest over rising cost

Campaigners calling for fairer rail fares will stage a protest this week as commuters learn how much more they will have to pay for their tickets next January.

The demonstration by Fair Fares Now campaigners will be at London’s Waterloo station tomorrow – the day the July 2011 inflation figures are announced.

The January 2012 rise on regulated fares, which include season tickets, is based on the previous July’s RPI inflation figure plus three per cent.

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With last month’s RPI rate likely to be around five per cent, this means commuters will have to fork out eight per cent more for their season tickets in the new year.

What makes things even worse for train travellers is that the Government has changed the annual price-rise formula from RPI plus one per cent to RPI plus three per cent for the next three years.

Also, the expected rise of eight per cent will be an average increase, with some season tickets going up by more than this figure.

The Government and train companies have stressed that the rises, although painful, are necessary to maintain important investment in the railways. The Government is also keen for travellers to bear more of the burden of the cost of the railways than taxpayers.

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But, led by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), the Fair Fares Now campaigners fiercely oppose the increase.

CBT’s public transport campaigner Alexandra Woodsworth said: “Affordable rail travel is vital for passengers, for the environment and for our workforce. These massive fare rises will be a disaster for people already struggling with rising costs, and risk pricing those on lower incomes out of jobs in our major cities.

“Our demonstration is sending a clear message to Government that the country simply can’t afford fare rises on such a punitive scale. It’s time to burst the bubble on inflation-busting fare hikes.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, one of the organisations backing the fares campaign, said: “The fare hikes coming down the track are part of the wider agenda to put profit before people on our railways.

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“Such massive fare rises will be a disaster for people already struggling with rising costs and frozen wages.

“People won’t be able to afford to get to work, or will be forced to drive – creating more traffic jams and more carbon emissions.

“Trains should be an essential public service, not a luxury for the rich.”

Ministers are undertaking a full review of ticket prices following a report by former Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Roy McNulty, who found that on average British passengers pay about 30 per cent more than rail customers in other European countries.

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Sir Roy’s recommended a radical overhaul of the system which he has claimed could save £1bn a year. Potential changes include off-peak fares rising while staff numbers dwindle and ticket offices close.

Other recommendations include creating 10,000 more parking spaces at stations to raise money and closing ticket kiosks to leave more room for shops.

Rush hour overcrowding on trains is worse in Leeds than anywhere outside of London.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) revealed the city has the highest number of standard-class passengers forced to stand, with 14 per cent without a seat on arrival at the city centre in the morning peak and 12.1 per cent standing on departing trains in the afternoon peak.

The Department for Transport has announced that Northern Rail will receive 22 carriages to help with congestion problems.