Tagged: Thameslink

Claims that North-East rail fares are cheaper than the South is a “myth”, says a passenger group

Cheap North-East rail fares are a “myth” that should be dispelled, campaigners say as the Government proposes increasing tickets prices to pay for better services.

Train fares in the region are already comparable with other parts of the UK and putting up prices to pay for new rolling stock and more frequent services would be unfair, says rail user group Coastliners.

As part of a consultation exercise ahead of the refranchising of the Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) services, the Government has asked users for their views on below-average fares being increased to pay for improvements.

But research by Coastliners, which represents rail passengers on the Durham coast, found that many journeys in the Tees Valley were no cheaper than those in the South-East and London.

Peter Walker, who carried out the study, said the South-East had received massive investment in schemes such as Thameslink and Crossrail – and North-East passengers deserved similar levels of funding without seeing substantial price rises.

“We often pay as much for our trains as do those in the Home Counties. It is time to end the double standards of funding so often seen in the years gone by.”

 Coastliners added in its official response to the Government consultation:
“We as a user group would be grateful if this myth of lower fares in the North of England could be abandoned once and for all – it has little basis in fact.”

The findings were supported by Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport.

He said:

“There are many myths about rail in the North of England which desperately need dispelling if passengers are to get a fair deal.

“The idea that northern passengers are getting better value for money than passengers in the south is one of these.

“Not only are standard fares very similar across the regions, but investment per head in the south is around twice that per head in the north.”

In response, the Department for Transport said the consultation on the Northern and TPE franchises asked for views on how services could be improved and how this could be balanced with fares.

A spokeswoman added:
“We are currently looking at the responses to that consultation. No decision will be taken without considering local views.

“We are very aware of passengers’ concerns over rail fares, and that is why the Chancellor announced a second year’s freeze in real terms on regulated fares, as well as abolishing train operating companies’ ability to flex prices on unregulated fares.”

The RMT has announced that it will hold an event in the House of Commons to lobby MPs on the Northern and TPE franchises.

The transport union said members and supporters from across the country would attend the event on November 4.

Source –  Northern Echo , 18 Oct 2014

Legal battle looms over sell off of East Coast main line

Rail unions have launched a legal battle with the Coalition Government over the sale of the East Coast Main Line.

They claim the planned “re-privatisation” of the service before the next general election in 2015 is being rushed through and that ministers have “cut corners”.

The rail unions Aslef and the TSSA said their members’ jobs and conditions, as well as the interests of passengers and taxpayers, were being threatened by a lack of consultation.

They are seeking a judicial review over the matter and are also challenging extensions to the Thameslink and Great Northern franchises.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “It is imperative that we raise the genuine concerns of all stakeholders but, especially, the employees before this is rushed through. We cannot, in good conscience, allow the mistakes of the past to happen again.”

The East Coast Main Line franchise, which runs from Edinburgh, through the North East to London, has been in Government hands since November 2009 when the then franchise holders National Express gave it up, saying it could not afford to run it any more.

Before that, from 1996 to December 2007, it had been run by Great North Eastern Railway before it had the franchise taken away due to poor financial management.

It has been run for the Government since 2009 by Directly Operated Railways, which last year returned more than £200m to taxpayers as a result of its stewardship of the line.

In January the Government published a shortlist of three bids to run it as part of plans for the rail route’s re-privatisation. The bidders were FirstGroup, a joint bid from Eurostar and French firm Keolis, and another from Virgin and Stagecoach.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “After the scandal of this Government robbing the British taxpayer of a billion pounds in the scramble to privatise the Royal Mail it is shocking that they are engaging in the same tactics to try and hand the East Coast Main Line back to their friends in big business.

“The British public have a right to openness and transparency when it comes to the ideologically-driven attempt to sell off Britain’s most successful rail-route to the speculators and chancers after two previous private sector failures on the same line.”

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: “The coalition knows only too well that rail franchising is not fit for purpose. Rail workers are at a loss to understand why the Government insists on going forward with a broken system which threatens the interests of passengers and taxpayers.

“We can only conclude that the ideology which saw Royal Mail flogged off on the cheap continues to thrive.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We will vigorously defend this claim and remain committed to the franchising programme.

“As these legal proceedings are ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  07 April 2014