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Train firms promise to keep fares down

PUBLISHED: 09:03 04 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:03 03 July 2010

Train companies that operate services in the eastern region have pledged there will be no inflation-busting rises on unregulated fares from tomorrow.

Passenger groups and rail unions have warned that nationally the annual fare increases will see most cheap-day returns, long-distance open, leisure and advance fare tickets, which are set by the train companies themselves, rise on average around 5pc, compared to the current inflation rate of 1.

Train companies that operate services in the eastern region have pledged there will be no inflation-busting rises on unregulated fares from tomorrow.

Passenger groups and rail unions have warned that nationally the annual fare increases will see most cheap-day returns, long-distance open, leisure and advance fare tickets, which are set by the train companies themselves, rise on average around 5pc, compared to the current inflation rate of 1.9pc, with some tickets costing up to 15pc more.

But a sample of comparison figures provided by National Express East Anglia, which runs routes between Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and from Norwich to London and Cambridge, revealed that its fares would stay the same as last year or could even be reduced.

A spokesman said an anytime return from Norwich to London would still cost £82, while an off-peak single from Norwich to Yarmouth would still be £6.20. An anytime return from Lowestoft to London via East Suffolk Line would be reduced from £75 to £74.70.

Nationwide, rail passengers have been told to expect to pay an average of 1.1pc more for their tickets, which train company chiefs say is the lowest increase since rail privatisation in the mid-1990s.

That figure is largely down to a 0.4pc fall in the cost of regulated fares - including season tickets for rail commuters, savers and standard day returns - which are capped by the government.

Rail customer watchdog, Passenger Focus warned yesterday that from tomorrow many unregulated fares would soar above inflation and claimed rail companies were tinkering with off-peak restrictions. The fare rises were also criticised by the TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs' Association), the union for people in transport and travel, and the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers') Union.

However, National Express East Anglia said its rail fares were either being reduced by an average of 0.4pc or frozen at existing levels.

It said fares such as season tickets were being reduced in price by an average of 0.4pc, while other fares, including advance fares and off-peak tickets, were being frozen, with prices held at 2009 levels.

Andrew Chivers, National Express East Anglia's managing director, said: “We are pleased to say that in January 2010 our rail fares are either being reduced by an average of 0.4pc or frozen at existing levels.

“This is very good news for our customers. Season-ticket holders will see the cost of rail travel come down in January 2010.

“We have also frozen other fares at the existing prices, meaning that customers will benefit from a zero price increase in rail fares which in real terms will offer even better value.”

East Midlands Trains, which runs services from Norwich to the Mid-lands and North, said the average ticket price on its services would increase by 1.8pc from January 2.

However, the train company was unable to provide a comparison of how individual fares might increase.

Tim Shoveller, managing director of East Midlands Trains, said: “We have put together a fair package for our passengers which includes some significant price cuts.

“The average fare increase at East Midlands Trains is one of the lowest for many years and we are committed to playing our part in providing affordable rail travel.”

First Capital Connect, which runs services from King's Lynn to London, said rail fares on its services would remain the same or reduce.

Regulated fares, which include a number of season tickets and anytime returns, will fall by 0.4pc.

Unregulated fares, including off-peak returns, will largely remain at current prices, with no change on average across all unregulated fares.

Hugh Clancy, commercial director at First Capital Connect, said: “We recognise the current economic climate and the impact this has on our customers and the free zing of fares reflect this.”


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