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Furious commuters vow ‘not to pay’ as rail fares set to go up

‘How can you put prices up when they’re always delayed?’ Furious commuters vow ‘not to pay’ as rail fares are set to go up by £100 a year

  • Furious commuters have expressed dismay over rail fares which are set to go up 
  • Ticket costs are set to rise in line with July’s rate of Retail Prices Index inflation 
  • A campaign group said commuters will ‘refuse to pay’ if prices keep increasing

Furious commuters have vowed not to pay increased rail fares which are set to increase by £100 a year.

Some said they would be forced to ditch trains altogether while others called for nationalisation and said increased prices are not reflected in the quality of the service.

Ticket costs are to rise from January in line with July’s rate of Retail Prices Index inflation, which is used to set the cap on annual season ticket price hikes.

Rail campaign group Railfuture said commuters will ‘refuse to pay’ if season ticket prices continue to be hiked as the Office for National Statistics this morning announced that the Retail Price Index (RPI) has risen by 2.8 per cent.  

Campaigners fear a £100 hike in rail prices as the Retail Price Index (RPI) has risen by 2.8 per cent 

The RPI measures the change in the cost of goods and services.

The announcement was met with dismay by some commuters at London Bridge station on Wednesday morning.

James Reid, 58, who often travels to London from Edinburgh, said he pays roughly £12,000 per year for ‘badly organised’ trains.

‘I don’t commute on a season ticket, but I use the rail service across the country and it’s becoming incredibly expensive,’ the photographer said.

‘2.8% (on top of) quite a lot of money already. Per year, I don’t get much change out of £12,000 on fares.’

Describing the service, he added: ‘Overcrowding, an immense amount of train failure – it’s pretty badly organised really.

‘It looks to me as if they’re more interested in maxing out trains to be full, which I can get from a commercial point of view, but the problem is the customer is like a second-rate something or other.’

College student Gemma Delgaty, 17, said she travels 50 minutes into London and her return ticket costs a ‘ridiculous’ £26.

‘Today I’ve had to get two Tubes and a bus because the trains have been delayed,’ she said. ‘How can you put the prices up when everyone is delayed all the time?

 Ticket costs are to rise from January in line with July’s rate of Retail Prices Index inflation, which is used to set the cap on annual season ticket price hikes

‘I won’t be getting the train as much (if prices rise), I’ll be driving. It’s as simple as that.’

Patrick Witter, 50, described his delayed journey on Wednesday as ‘typical’ and called for a return to a nationalised service.

‘Today is a typical day – it’s raining, the trains are delayed so I’m now late,’ the freelance project manager said.

He said he travels around the country on trains but described the service as ‘not great, really, it could be better’.

On the price hike, he added: ‘I don’t think they should actually be doing that because if they believe in capitalism then you deliver a good service before you increase prices, and so far they’re not meeting any of those criteria, are they?’

Jack Pinkham, 24, an account manager from St Albans, said most of the journeys on his once-a-week commute to London are delayed.

Asked if the service was reflected in the roughly £30 ticket price, he said: ‘When it’s delayed, absolutely not, which is more than not, nowadays.

‘It’s majority evening delays, morning isn’t too bad.’

He said he has to stand during most journeys and described trains in Europe, where he travels regularly for work, as ’10 times better’.

Commuters in Leeds also condemned train operators for offering an ‘atrocious’ service after news broke of an increase in season ticket costs of almost 3% from next year.

Some rail users in the Yorkshire city suggested that prices should be dropping to reflect the quality of the service they experience, with one branding the rise as a ‘shambles and a disgrace’.

James Ellis, 28, travels regularly from the East Sussex town of Hastings to Leeds, and also uses the Northern train service to visit friends and family.

He said that the current service he gets on trains is ‘absolutely obscene’ and called for nationalisation of the railways.

Discussing trips to see friends around Yorkshire, he said: ‘I have to really think about when I’m going to go, because I couldn’t do it last minute, you have to buy months in advance.

‘Where’s this money going? It’s not going on the services that we’re going to use. All that’s happening is that prices are going up and up and up, fares are going up and up and up, and the only people benefiting from this are the private companies that own the railways.’

 Furious commuters have vowed not to pay increased rail fares which are set to increase by £100 a year

Mr Ellis said that he regularly boards Pacer trains, which were brought into service during the 1980s and are built from the body of a bus frame.

The vehicles were intended to act as a short-term solution to a shortage of rolling stock, but are still in use today.

Operators intend to faze them out of service by the end of next year to improve access for disabled people.

‘I think my grandparents would have used the exact same train that I use, to be honest’, Mr Ellis said.

He added: ‘The actual services themselves are absolutely atrocious.’

Tom Hartshorn, who works on the design team of a building contractor, travels daily from Ilkley to Leeds for work.

The 30-year-old questioned whether delayed, often busy trains offer value for money.

He said of the price rises: ‘I can’t see the service getting any better, and I can’t see that I’m going to get any value for money after the increase, to be honest with you, but you kind of expect it now because the prices go up every year. It is what it is, unfortunately.’

Mr Hartshorn said he also finds himself on board Pacer trains on occasion, saying: ‘Coming home especially they are absolutely rammed.

‘There’s too many people on there to be honest with you, but it’s either that or wait half an hour for another train.’

 

The announcement was met with dismay by some commuters at London Bridge station on Wednesday morning (file image)

John Stewart was one of a small group of people who held up banners outside the station in protest at the price rises.

Mr Stewart, who is from the RMT union, which encompasses rail workers, said: ‘On their performance over the past 12 months it’s a shambles and a disgrace, to be quite honest with you.’

Allison James, 59, catches a mid-morning service from Batley, West Yorkshire, to Leeds for her job as a retail worker but was running late as a result of train delays when she spoke on Wednesday morning after news broke of the fare increases for 2020.

She said that the price of a ticket comes out of her own pocket, saying: ‘It’s gone up a lot since I first started coming into Leeds for work, and now it’s going up again.’

Charity fundraiser Ciaran Miller, from Otley, West Yorkshire, said he has been put off buying a season ticket by high prices, and that the cost of his £7.20 fare is equivalent to the money he gets for an hour’s work.

He said: ‘That’s my hourly wage. So one hour of my day is taken off every day, just to come to work.

‘The fares have gone up, but my wages haven’t.’

One 30-year-old lawyer, who did not wish to be named, said he commutes from London to Leeds regularly, but that the service does not offer him value for money.

He said: ‘The trains are often late, they’re packed and often uncomfortable. It just doesn’t feel like you can rely on them for day-to-day work.

‘You just hope that this increase in fares is going to go towards improving the services.’       

Over the past three years the number of journeys using season tickets has dropped from 712 million in 2015/16 to 625 million in 2018/19.

Bruce Williamson, spokesman for campaign group Railfuture, said passengers would ‘groan and whinge’ when fares go up again.

He said: ‘It might be that we’ve now reached the point where we cannot simply put fares up and expect passengers to take the hit.

‘They will just give up and refuse to pay. They will either find either another job or another form of transport.’

They have also called for the lower Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation to be used to set fare increases, which are implemented from January 2 2020. The CPI rate increased to 2.1 per cent last month, the ONS said.

The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments regulate rises in around half of fares, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time.

A cap on how much they can be increased is pegged to the July RPI figure, except for off-peak fares in Scotland for which RPI-one per cent is used.

Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road said regulated fares went up by an average of 2.8 per cent in January 2019, following the July 2018 RPI figure of 3.2 per cent.

Examples of potential season ticket increases include:

  • Brighton to London: Increase of £125 to £4,581
  • Gloucester to Birmingham: Increase of £119 to £4,357
  • Barrow-in-Furness to Preston: Increase of £117 to £4,285
  • Edinburgh to Glasgow: Increase of £114 to £4,198

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was ‘not delighted’ about increasing rail fares.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier on Wednesday: ‘I’m not delighted by it, to be perfectly honest, as a train commuter.

‘The truth is we do now have a situation where average wages are going up faster than inflation, so if you don’t keep this tracking with inflation you are actually effectively putting less money into transport and less money into trains and you won’t get them running on time doing that either.’

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘Every year commuters are being asked to pay more money for bad train services.

‘The Government has sat back and allowed private train companies to cash in while people’s pay has been held back. Continuous fare rises undermine urgent action to tackle the climate emergency by pricing people off the railways.

‘Labour will bring our railways into public ownership so they are run in the interests of passengers, not private profit.’

Research by passenger watchdog Transport Focus shows that fewer than a third (30 per cent) of rail commuters are satisfied with the value for money of their ticket.

The organisation’s director, David Sidebottom, said:’ Transport Focus believes it’s time for a fairer, clearer fares formula based on calculations that use the Consumer Prices Index, rather than the discredited Retail Price Index.

‘After recent disruption and a lot of misery over last winter, rail operators still have a great deal to improve.’

Bruce Williamson, spokesman for campaign group Railfuture, said: ‘It might be that we’ve now reached the point where we cannot simply put fares up and expect passengers to take the hit.

‘They will just give up and refuse to pay. They will either find either another job or another form of transport.’

Jack Pinkham, an account manager from St Albans, commutes into London once a week and experiences delays on most of his journeys.

Asked if the service was reflected in the price he pays, the 24-year-old, who spends around £30 per trip, said: ‘When it’s delayed absolutely not, which is more than not nowadays.’

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