Suffolk commuter group questions motive behind claim Abellio Greater Anglia uses UK profits to cut fares in Europe

Delays of up to 30 minutes are expected

Delays of up to 30 minutes are expected - Credit: Lucy taylor

A rail user group has said the priority should be getting commuters value for money in the wake of fare hikes.

East Suffolk Travellers’ Association has responded to the campaign group Action for Rail (AfR), which claims British passengers are subsidising European rail networks.

AfR, which is backed by trade unions, suggest that the foreign state-backed companies that run three-quarters of UK rail franchises are using profits to improve the service and cut fares in their home nations.

Abellio, which is the international arm of Dutch firm Nederlandse Spoorwegen, runs Abellio Greater Anglia in the region.

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: “Abellio make premium payments to the UK Government to operate the Greater Anglia franchise; these payments contribute to investment in Britain’s railways.

“We are also investing £31.5million in our current short franchise through to October 2016 to help improve customer service and train service performance and reliability, including a £9m upgrade to our intercity trains.”

Trevor Garrod, the chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers’ Association, said commuters could find “extremely cheap fares” if they booked in advance.

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“We want more people travelling by train and we are concerned sometimes that there is a rather hysterical reaction which some people put out about fares which discourages people to use trains,” he said.

“We try to encourage our members to plan and go and find the cheap fares.”

He added that it was important to encourage people to use trains to “safeguard” future investment and jobs.

The claims made by AfR come after yesterday’s price increase saw regulated fares, which include season tickets, going up by up to 2.5%, while the average rise for all fares is 2.2%.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary for Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “Allowing German, French and Dutch rail firms to run our rail franchises means that UK passengers pay the highest fares in Europe while at the same time keeping fares down in those countries. It is the economics of the madhouse.”

The rail industry has said that this is the lowest annual rise for five years. But campaign groups and trade unions have pointed out that the annual rises in fares have outstripped the rises in wages.

A Department for Transport spokesman denied that rail franchises subsidise European railways: “All UK companies must pay tax here and any profit they make is retained in their UK businesses. Revenue generated from fares is transforming the rail network, benefiting millions of passengers.”