Suffolk: More rail misery as delays hit as fares soar
FRUSTRATED rail passengers faced more misery as severe delays added insult to injury on the day fare prices went up.
Thousands of commuters returning to work after the extended Christmas holiday faced delays of between 45 minutes to an hour up until 10.45am yesterday.
And the explanation was an all-too familiar one for commuters – over-run engineering works.
The disruption comes as rail fares increased by an average of 5.9% in East Anglia.
The price hikes mean a National Express East Anglia (NXEA) season ticket from Ipswich to London has risen from �5,036 to �5,300, up 5.2%, while those from Manningtree to the capital have risen from �4,380 to �4,600, a 5% hike.
Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users’ Association, said the delays were a “real kick in the teeth”.
“This has happened so many times before – it is a case of same old, same old,” he said.
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“I think the last three in four years we have faced delays because of over-run engineering works after Christmas and New Year.
“It is a real kick in the teeth on the day we are handed a whopping great fare rise.
“Very few people are satisfied with the level of service for various reasons.”
He said the service was becoming a “joke”, with big companies in the Liverpool Street area of the city resorting to avoiding scheduling meetings for the first hour of the day for fear of employees not making it in on time.
He added: “It sounds dramatic, but there is an economic impact. If big businesses are tailoring their daily workings because of the appalling record of commuters making it to work on time, it is not good enough.”
David Bigg of the Witham and Braintree Passengers Association said “enough is enough”.
“For a start, NXEA have made spectacular fools of themselves by not having the new prices up in Witham station, so passengers have not known what to pay,” he said.
“And yet again Network Rail have over-run on engineering works, which begs the important question of whether they should play it safe so if it goes pear-shaped they don’t get caught out.
“There must be a fundamental failure in Network Rail’s planning procedures, because this keeps happening, we will be talking about the same thing in 2012.”
Colchester MP Bob Russell added: “This is not acceptable. There can be no excuses. Such a scenario seems to happen on a regular basis which either indicates inadequate oversight and management or a couldn’t-care-less attitude from Network Rail.
“I shall be asking Transport Minister Mr Norman Baker to investigate this latest failure. With higher fares, the delays have made the start to 2011 even worse for travellers.”
An NXEA spokeswoman said: “These increases reflect Government policy in helping to sustain continued investment in the railways.
“We continue to offer a wide range of good value fares, including advance purchase tickets between London and Ipswich from �8.”
She said passengers were kept informed of the delays on their website and via e-mail alerts to customers.
A spokesman for Network Rail apologised for any inconvenience to passengers. He said the engineering works were completed on time.
He said: “However, testing and re-opening the lines proved more difficult than expected.
“Our contingency plans enabled us to open all routes into Liverpool Street, albeit with delays and a small number of cancellations.”
He added that all lines were fully open by 6.45am, but the knock-on effects were felt into the morning.