Rail fare increase is 'no consolation to passengers'

Great Western Railway to operate reduced timetable during lockdown

A rise in the cost of train fares from spring next year has been criticised by passenger bodies amid the rising cost of living and the continued impact of the pandemic.

Richard Porter, secretary of the Marlow-Maidenhead Passengers’ Association, claimed that prices for rail travellers should have frozen to encourage people back on to the network.

The Government announced on Friday that next year's fares will rise by 3.8 per cent from March. Transport ministers have defended their decision by adding that this is below the current rate of inflation. 

But Mr Porter was disappointed to hear the news of a further rise - following on from March last year, when prices rose above inflation for the first time in seven years.

"We saw it coming of course, but that’s no consolation to passengers," he said.

"At a time like this, we should be freezing rail fares to encourage people back onto the trains and to make it easier for key workers to get by."

Mr Porter's views have been echoed by the Campaign for Better Transport group, which argued that the rise is 'far from fair' in relation to car drivers, adding it goes against the UK's climate change ambitions. 

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of the group, said: "Rail fares should have been frozen to match the fuel duty freeze for car drivers.

"If the Government is serious about shrinking transport's carbon footprint it should make rail the affordable choice.

"Instead, it is asking some commuters to pay hundreds of pounds more for their season tickets, which risks driving people off rail and onto roads."

The Department for Transport said that the taxpayer has already invested more than £14billion to keep services running during the pandemic.

It said that the rise will 'help meet some of these costs' and will 'help pay for the service increases and improvements on many lines'.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP said: "Delaying the changes until March 2022 offers people the chance to save money by renewing their fares at last year’s price.

"That includes the 100,000 people who are already making savings with cheaper and more convenient flexible season tickets."

 The Rail Delivery Group - an umbrella group for the companies running the country's railways – welcomed the decision to hold fares in line with inflation.

It added: "We know the railway must not take more than its fair share from the taxpayer, which is why the rail industry is working to create a financially sustainable and more passenger-focused service."

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