Rail delays after fares increase

First published in Business Daily

RAIL passengers have endured a double whammy of inflation-busting fare rises and disrupted services.

As Transport Minister Norman Baker was describing the fare structure as "not ideal", commuters out in the dark and cold of an early January morning faced delays and cancellations.

From Wednesday, regulated fares, which include season tickets, have risen by an average of 4.2%, with the average increase for all fares being 3.9%.

Campaigners have pointed out it is the 10th successive above-inflation annual rise, with some fares having increased by more than 50% in the last 10 years.

Waiting for trains at King's Cross station in London, passengers expressed their anger at the rise. Outside the station, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle joined a protest against the high fares mounted by transport union TSSA.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Baker said the Government wanted to end above-inflation fares as soon as possible. But Ms Eagle said the Government had "caved in" to train companies by allowing some regulated fares to rise by more than 4.2% as long as the overall 4.2% average was maintained.

"People are paying more for a worse service," said Ms Eagle. Campaign group Railfuture said fares have risen "with no perceptible improvement in service".

The new year brought old problems during the rush-hour. Greater Anglia had to cancel some services, and there was disruption to Southern and Southeastern train company services. Buses had to replace trains for a time between Bourne End and Maidenhead in Berkshire and between Sudbury and Marks Tey in East Anglia.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said it recognised nobody liked paying more for their journey. But it added that railway funding could only come from taxpayers or from passengers "and the Government's policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train".

Reflecting the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are Old Etonians, TSSA's protest at King's Cross featured a top hat-wearing "ToffsRUs" band playing such commuter-soothing ditties as Jolly Boating Weather.

© Press Association 2012

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