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.”
The findings were supported by Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport.
“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.
“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
Northern Rail has announced it is putting up fares for some passengers – and blamed a new franchise agreement with the Department for Transport.
The changes will take effect from Monday, September 8, and mean that off-peak tickets can no longer be used during weekday evenings on the line between Newcastle and Hexham in Northumberland.
Customers who currently use off-peak tickets during the evening peak will either have to travel earlier or later, or buy a more expensive anytime ticket, according to Northern Rail.
In a statement, the firm told passengers using season tickets or anytime fares – which won’t be affected – they could find their carriages less crowded.
The statement, issued on the company’s web site, continued: “The changes are being made after the Department for Transport asked Northern to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its new franchise agreement.
“The change to off-peak tickets is the only option that has been taken forward and will be used to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers by reducing subsidy to Northern.”
The changes provoked a furious response from transport union the RMT, who said it could be “a taste of what’s to come” when new Northern and new TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises come into effect in 2016.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity and the fact that it has been cooked up by the DfT in collusion with the privatisation pirates from Northern Rail is a warning of what’s to come.
“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate. That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun.”
Richard Allan, commercial director, Northern Rail said: “The majority of customers who travel at peak times, such as those with season tickets, will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening.
“We have consulted extensively with local stakeholders and with Passenger Focus on the detail of this change, which is part of our new franchise agreement that was announced in March.”
The DfT is currently consulting on the new Northern and TPE franchises ahead of the launch of a bidding process.
But a consultation published by the Dft has given a taste of what may be to come. Ministers want the services to stop employing guards and move to “driver only” trains.
They also want to review the number of staff working at ticket offices and introduce more ticket machines, suggesting staff numbers will be cut.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Aug 2014