Fury at new rail fares hike

A RAIL watchdog has accused a train operator of “turning the screw on passengers” after it emerged some fares in East Anglia have soared by 30% since Christmas.

Danielle Nuttall

A RAIL watchdog accused a train operator of “turning the screw on passengers” last night after figures showed some fares in the region had been hiked up by 30% since Christmas.

Passenger Focus said National Express has increased the standard open return ticket from Ipswich to Liverpool Street to £58 - up £7 since Christmas and 23% higher than when the company took over.

It said banning one day travel cards out of Liverpool Street from 4.29pm to 6.34pm resulted in a 30% increase for many passengers because they were now forced to buy full price return tickets.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: “Yet again, a train company with poor value for money ratings in our National Passenger Survey - just 36% satisfaction - is turning the screw on passengers.

“This is yet more evidence that 'unregulated' prices are under huge pressure as train companies take steps to generate the premiums that have been promised to Government.

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“The effect of banning one day travelcards out of Liverpool Street from 4.29pm to 6.34pm is a 30%+ price increase for many passengers.”

He added: “Withdrawing the ticket that allows passengers to travel into London after the morning rush, but to come back on any train is retrograde and hardly in line with the National Express' 'making travel simpler' message. Why should passengers pay a rush hour price when they are travelling off-peak?”

A spokeswoman for National Express said: “We review fares on a periodic basis and for different types of tickets.

“The vast majority of fares are unchanged from 18th May and this includes season tickets and cheap day returns which will remain at the existing level. The price of an open return ticket from Ipswich to London continues to compare favourably with equivalent journeys in other parts of the country of a similar mileage.

“We are also continuing to invest in improvements to our train services and in improving levels of train service performance.”

Guy Dangerfield, Passenger Focus manager, advised travellers to check National Express' website to see if there were any cheaper advance tickets or to check if a season ticket could help.

“You only have to buy a £58 ticket three times in a seven-day period and a seven-day season is cheaper, while if you travel nine times in a month a monthly season is cheaper.”

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