Suffolk/Essex: ‘Rip-off’ rail fares much higher than other operators

PEAK-time rail fares from some parts of Suffolk to London are up to 32 per cent higher than similar-length journeys with other train operators, the EADT can reveal.

A special investigation has found rush-hour tickets for the Ipswich to London Liverpool Street service are �16.40 more than comparable trips into the capital.

A turn-up-and-travel peak-time return for the 137.5-mile round-trip between Ipswich to London is �68.10, against just �51.70 with South Eastern Trains for the 154.5-mile between Dover and London Charing Cross.

The gulf is even greater when it comes to 12-month season tickets: Ipswich-London commuters have to shell out �5,300, against just �4,376 for Dover-London travellers.

The exclusive investigation also found:

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- National Express East Anglia (NEEA) customers pay 50p-per-mile at peak times on the Ipswich to Liverpool Street service, against South Eastern (33p), South West Trains (43p) and Chiltern Railways (45p) for comparable journeys into London .

- Ipswich passengers are also the hardest hit of the NEEA stations we studied, paying 50p-per-mile at peak times compared with Cambridge (29p), Bury St Edmunds (40p) and Colchester (41p).

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- Ipswich to London passengers are paying up to �17 more than they need to for turn-up-and-travel returns. Buying separate tickets between Ipswich and Manningtree and Manningtree and London Liverpool Street can save a staggering �17.90 for peak-time commuters and �2.40 for off-peak travellers.

The investigation has prompted MPs and rail watchdogs to claim passengers are being ripped off.

Ben Gummer, Ipswich MP, said: “The figures bear out what everyone knows: we have the most expensive rail journeys in Europe and the one from Liverpool Street to Ipswich is one of the most expensive.

“Ipswich people are being ripped off - we have got bad trains and regular delays, we pay a fortune for bad trains.

“The answer is three-fold. We need to get a decent operator in for the short franchise. The long franchise following that has to incentivise investment and bring costs down. Thirdly I have got to carry on with my colleagues to ensure that Network Rail gets us the investment we have always been missing.”

Neil Skinner, chairman of Manningtree Rail Users Group, said: “I think most passengers on this line feel they are paying too much anyway. But to find they’re paying more than comparable rail journeys in the country will be a big surprise and disappointment.

“Rail fares are a rip-off anyway. The UK seems to be one of the only countries in the world that does not consider the rail network to be a crucial piece of infrastructure.

“We are definitely paying too much especially for the service we get on this line. That just adds insult to injury.”

Guy Dangerfield, spokesman for Passenger Focus, said: “I think passengers from Ipswich, because of the fact fares are not regulated, are paying more than passengers who travel on other routes and from nearer into London where prices have been regulated throughout privatisation.

“The issue around separate tickets is one of transparency, people find it exasperating and annoying when they discover these anomalies. Train operators must do more to remove these anomalies, which passengers find difficult to understand.”

How rail fares differ within Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire

COMMUTERS travelling from major stations in Suffolk and Essex pay more for their rail fares, our investigation has found.

For turn-up-and-travel peak-time returns to London, travellers from Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds are among the worst hit, paying 50, 41 and 40p-a-mile respectively.

However travellers from smaller stations pay a lot less for their journeys, such as Clacton (31p-a-mile), Sudbury (33p) and Harwich.

Yet peak-time travellers from Cambridge - on the line into London Kings Cross - pay 29p-a-mile, considerably less than commuters from major stations such as Ipswich and Colchester.

How to save nearly �18 on peak-time returns between Ipswich and London

When we telephoned National Express East Anglia to find out the cheapest return fare for today’s 7.34am train from Ipswich to London Liverpool Street, we were told the cheapest fare was �68.10. The same journey at 10.43am - coming back after 7pm and therefore considered an off-peak journey - costs �34.20.

Yet rush-hour commuters can save themselves a massive �17.90 - and off-peak travellers �2.40 - simply by splitting their journey up.

All you have to do is buy returns from Ipswich to Manningtree (�6.60) and Manningtree to London Liverpool Street (�43.60).

That means you pay �50.20 instead of the �68.10 fare quoted above. The only catch is your train has to stop at Manningtree.

A spokeswoman for NEEA said: “On the purchase of combination tickets for a particular journey, passengers can purchase such combinations in certain circumstances.

“In respect of enquiries received for a particular fare, train operators and the national rail enquiry service will generally quote the fare for a point-to-point journey, unless the customer asks for something more specific.”

National Express East Anlgia’s response

- Some of the fares quoted by EADT are regulated and the increase is determined by the Government, currently at RPI plus 1%

- Ipswich fares have historically been set on a long-distance, intercity basis, whereas Cambridge is part of the London and South East sector

- Some of the operators used in the comparisons saw lower regulated fare increases than the Anglia region, because of train performance

- Fares are not based purely on mileage factors – indeed British Rail did not base prices specifically on mileage-only factors.

- We provide good value advance fares on our intercity services from stations such as Ipswich starting from just �8 and such good value fares are not available on some of the routes the EADT has listed as examples in its selective comparisons.

- Our off-peak fares allow you to arrive in London at 10am, against 1pm for Chiltern

- Our anytime fares are still lower than typical journeys from Peterborough, Swindon and Kettering

A spokeswoman for NEEA said: “All train operators set fares according to the regulatory framework within a system which is largely unchanged since the rail industry was privatised in the 1990s.

“We have worked to provide good value fares including a wide range of advance fares from just �8 which continue to prove extremely popular for leisure and business users. For regular travellers, season tickets continue to provide good savings on the cost of their daily travel.”

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