Commuters' fury at hike in rail fares

RAIL users in East Anglia voiced their anger last night after a hike in fares was announced - just days after a train operator axed jobs and dining car services.

Russell Claydon

RAIL users in East Anglia voiced their anger last night after a hike in fares was announced - just days after a train operator axed jobs and dining car services.

Some commuters will see inflation-busting increases of 6% after Christmas, adding more than £200 to the price of a season ticket.

With the announcement coming just days after National Express East Anglia axed buffet carriage services on intercity trains, rail users have claimed they are not getting value for money.

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Trevor Garrod, chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers Association, said the timing of the rise would infuriate passengers.

He said: “The fact that a fare increase is announced so soon after that news is bound to upset a lot of rail users.”

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An annual ticket with National Express from Colchester to London will rise by £220 to £3,960 - a hike of 6% - while Ipswich commuters have a slightly smaller rise, up £160 to £5,060 - an increase of 3.2%.

Peak day returns from both towns to London are up £2 to £40 and £60 respectively, while an off-peak day return to the capital will increase by £1.60 to £20.40 from Colchester and by 50p to £32 from Ipswich.

Mr Garrod added: “Quite clearly for those people who have no choice but to travel at a particular time they are being hit harder.

“They will not feel they are getting value for money unless there are improvements to the service such as more room on trains.”

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users' Association, said he was “very disappointed” with the increases. “In our region, there are two issues: a percentage of every fare goes to National Express's shareholders, so they profit from the rise,” he said.

“Secondly, passengers are paying for 40 years of underinvestment in the network. The bottom line is that the Government through the Department for Transport sets the increase at inflation plus 1% so the rail companies have no room for manoeuvre.”

A spokeswoman for operator National Express East Anglia last night defended the national announcement, saying wherever possible the company had kept its prices to the industry average, and in some cases below.

She said a season ticket still representing a “significant saving” across a year, meaning a commuter was only paying for 40 weeks' travel.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said the increased revenue would help pay for major investment to improve the railways and deliver better value for taxpayers in line with Government policy to reduce subsidy to the railway by 40% between 2006-7 and 2013-14.

In East Anglia, the franchise operator National Express - which this week announced 300 job cuts and the axing of dining cars from its InterCity route - is investing £40million refurbishing its fleet of 61 class 315 trains which operate on suburban services to north and east London, Hertfordshire, and Shenfield in Essex. Work has just started on a £2.1m scheme to expand the number of car parking spaces at Manningtree.

National Express is still offering advance purchase single tickets of £6 between Ipswich and Liverpool Street.

Annual Annual Peak Peak Off peak Off peak season season day day day day

Ticket ticket return return return return

2008 2009 2008 2009 2008 2009

Colchester to London £3,740 £3,960 £38 £40 £18.80 £20.40

Ipswich to London £4,900 £5,060 £58 £60 £31.50 £32

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