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Thursday, January 2, 2014

'Disgusting': Rail commuters protest at New Year fare rises


By Matthew Beard, January 2, 2013

'Poor service': Passengers at King's Cross in London

Commuters today branded the rising cost of travel as “disgusting” as rail fare increases came into effect on the first working day of the New Year.

Passengers travelling to London are paying several hundred pounds more for their season tickets which ministers have hiked on average by 3.1 per cent, with some tickets rising by five per cent.
Commuters travelling to London from Dover or Northampton became reluctant members of the “£5,000 club” as season tickets broke the £5,000-a-year barrier for the first time, while Swindon commuters face paying £8,000 for their tickets.

At a commuters’ protest rally at King’s Cross station, travellers said their wages were failing to keep pace with the rising cost of travel and they would be forced to make cutbacks elsewhere.

Teacher Simon Jones, 30, who commutes from Wandsworth, said: “Fares are pretty high. My salary has just gone up one per cent but fares are rising around three per cent. There are delays on practically every day. We’re not really getting value for money. At Clapham Junction you can hardly get on a train.”

Meanwhile at Victoria station, commuters hit out at the fare rises.

Rachel Yates, 31, a department store buyer in Victoria who commutes from Gillingham, said: “I pay £3,600 for my annual season ticket and I think the increase is pretty disgusting seeing as we see no improvement in the service. The trains are quite cramped and you always have to stand. I make sure I leave 15 minutes extra so I get a seat on the way home. If the fares go up any more I’m going to have to make cut backs.”

Technical analyst Nicola Yandle, 29, from Maidstone, added: “It’s my first day back at work after maternity leave. My season ticket is £3,800, which is about a sixth of my wages.”

Suggestions that ministers are planning to ease overcrowding by reducing the number of first class seats on key commuter routes got a mixed response.

Rick White, 39, who travels in from Rainham to his job in Soho at a post-production firm, said: “I pay £256 a month and it’s gone up by £10. For the service we get, it’s far too expensive, there’s often a lot of delays.”

Finance student Marjolaine Basuiau, 22, from Paris: “Getting rid of first class is a great step forward in equality for all passengers, but I still pay less to travel in England than I do in France.”

Speaking about the possible first-class carriage plan, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “There are some new ideas we are looking at. This is one of them. Is it going to happen? It may. It may not.”
A study published today showed that rail fares are rising so fast that the Government would be making a profit from passengers by 2018. In four years time fare revenues will cover 103 per cent of the operating costs of the railways up from 80 per cent in 2009, according to a report commissioned by the Campaign for Better Transport.
Consumer group Which? said the fare increases “will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze”, while campaign group Railfuture said: “This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe.”