Rail firms forced into fares fairness pledge

Rail fare increases come into force today
Rail fare increases come into force today
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RAIL companies have been ordered to make sure passengers always have access to the cheapest fare as a fresh round of fare rises comes into force today.

The Government intervened after it was shown that passengers using self-service machines can miss out on fares only offered at ticket windows.

Machines will eventually be expected to offer all fares but in a first step companies will be obliged to label them to warn passengers they may get a better deal by visiting the ticket office.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “I am absolutely determined that passengers should get the best possible deal for every journey.

“There is no excuse for poor-quality information, restricted ticket choice or confusing screen directions at ticket machines.

“I welcome the fact that the industry has responded to the challenge with some positive actions which will be rolled out by next March.”

The promise on ticket machines is part of a new rail fares code of conduct to be overseen by the Office of Rail regulation.

Michael Roberts, head of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “While industry research shows the vast majority of customers find the correct fare using ticket machines, we know there is more we can do to make them better.

“With more and more people buying from ticket machines, we are already working on a range of improvements. Planned changes include better information on the range of tickets offered by machines, new products and improving the clarity of on-screen information.”

As many people head back to work today after the festive break, those using the train to travel will see the cost of their tickest increase as fare rises announced last year come into effect.

Figures released by Labour today echo research by the Campaign for Better Transport published earlier in the week showing how the cost of rail fares has streaked ahead of wages in recent years.

Examples highlighted by Labour include the cost of a season ticket between Leeds and Manchester which was £2,416 in 2010 and has risen to £2,980, an increase of 23 per cent.

Regulated fares will increase by up to 2.5 per cent today while the average fare rise on all journeys is 2.2 per cent.

Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, said: “David Cameron is presiding over a rip-off railway in Britain.

“He has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and has allowed the train companies to hit passengers with massive fare rises of over 20 per cent since 2010.

“Some season tickets have now risen by over 30 per cent under this Government, forcing people to pay thousands of pounds more to commute to work on increasingly overcrowded trains.

“Out-of-touch Ministers talk about ‘fair fares for comfortable commuting’, but this is a world away from the reality for millions of hard-up commuters.”