Fares set to rise as Northern Rail extends franchise

RAIL passengers will pay higher fares as part of a new deal for Northern Rail to run local services in Yorkshire.

The amount taxpayers give Northern Rail to subsidise the cost of local services will be cut by around £16 million per year.

But more money will be raised from passengers by tightening the rules on the type of tickets which can be used during the evening rush hour forcing people to pay higher fares.

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As part of the deal with the Government, Northern Rail has been given new targets on punctuality and passenger satisfaction.

It has also promised to invest in new facilities for passengers including information screens at 100 stations across the North, and make more advanced tickets available.

Northern Rail managing director Alex Hynes said: “The next 22 months is about being more efficient and more effective, seeking and delivering new ways of working. That doesn’t mean taking short cuts or risks. It’s about achieving a balance: delivering a safe and improved service in a new way: doing more with less.”

The extension, known as a “Direct Award”, to Northern Rail’s current franchise will run for the next 22 months.

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Council leaders in the region are already working with Government officials to redesign the way local and transpennine services and run from 2016.

James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire transport body Metro, said: “It is very clear that some passengers will be paying higher fares for their tickets than they are at the moment.

“I understand the need to make the railway more efficient, but this must be in the context of planning for long term growth and improvements to the quality of the service.

“Passenger numbers have been rising annually in a supposedly no-growth franchise, but there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the number or quality of trains.”

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Controversy over the way the West Coast Main Line franchise was handled by the Government 18 months ago led to Ministers overhauling the process.

Faced with a string of franchises coming to an end, including the northern, Ministers have decided to negotiate short extensions to current deals to allow more time for proper competitions to be run.

Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh said: “Passengers struggling with David Cameron’s cost of living crisis must not pay the price for the Government’s incompetence through higher ticket prices and worse train services.

“Passengers will want reassurance on fares and timetables, particularly following the problems with TransPennine Express which mean that franchise may not have enough trains come April 2015.”