Rail Fares: Commuters Urged To Speak Their Minds
Commuters returning to work after the festive break are being urged to tell the government exactly what they think of the above-inflation rail fare rises they are having to pay for 2012.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) is inviting rail travellers to contact the Treasury by tweets, text messages or phone calls so they can show chancellor George Osborne their anger at the increases.
From yesterday, regulated fares, which include season tickets, have risen by an average of 6%, but some commuters are paying as much as 10.6% more for their annual tickets than they did in January 2011.
The CBT is joining the TSSA transport union in a demonstration against the fare rises which is being held outside St Pancras station in London.
Last week the CBT released figures which showed that some British commuters are paying between three and a half times and nearly 10 times more for some season tickets than some of their European counterparts.
The government has scrapped its original plan to raise regulated fares by the RPI inflation rate plus 3%, so that the January 2012 increase is limited to RPI plus 1%.
But the government still plans to bring in RPI plus 3% rises in January 2013 and January 2014.
CBT public transport campaigner Sophie Allain said: "When the cost of season tickets is so much higher than other European capitals, the government's fare rises are starting to affect the UK's competitiveness.
"That's why, if the government is serious about promoting economic growth, it must also look at reducing planned fare rises in 2013 and 2014 as part of a policy to cut fares and make public transport truly affordable."
London Underground and London bus fares have risen by an average of 5.6% this January - a lower-than-planned figure following a Government cash injection of £136 million.
The government, train companies and London Mayor Boris Johnson are all adamant that fare rises are necessary to sustain much-needed investment in the Tube and main line railway, which includes projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink.
But passenger groups and transport unions are particularly angry that the rises come at a time of high inflation and low or no salary increases.
They have also pointed to Network Rail's poor punctuality on long-distance rail routes as highlighted recently by the Office of Rail Regulation.
To add to the pain of the fare rises, train travellers had to contend with wet and windy conditions which led to disrupted services on some routes.
The bad weather meant some East Coast main line trains between London and Scotland had to start and terminate at Newcastle upon Tyne.
Also, buses had to replace trains on some East Coast services between London and Harrogate and Hull.
A signalling problem at Rhyl in Wales led to disruption to services run by Virgin Trains and Arriva Trains Wales.