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Train firms criticised for more price rises
COMMUTERS last night blasted train firms for inflation-busting prices despite no improvement in punctuality.
Operators are today putting up season tickets in Oxfordshire by up to 9.2 per cent. First Great Western (FGW) commuters face a 4.2 per cent increase despite “very poor” punctuality.
So far this year, 89.9 per cent of the firm’s trains arrived within five minutes of its schedule across the network.
This is worse than each year since April 2008, when punctuality was 90.5 per cent followed by 92.4, 90.3 and 90.6 per cent in the following years.
Ninety per cent arrived within five minutes in London and Thames Valley from April to November this year, down from 92.1 per cent in 2010/11.
And figures published for the first time show about 70.6 per cent arrive within a minute across the network.
But Oxford and Didcot Parkway passengers today face a 12-month ticket increase to London from £4,348 to £4,532 – an extra £184 or 4.2 per cent. The season ticket price was £3,892 in 2008.
Oxford to Paddington commuter Rob Watson said: “It is shockingly poor value to have to pay more for a service that simply stays the same or gets worse.”
The 51-year-old BBC journalist said he was often late for meetings and often missed time with his children, six and eight, in the evening.
He said: “It is such an appalling service. It is deeply frustrating.
“I can’t remember getting on a train in the last few weeks where something hasn’t happened.
“I saw a woman recently crying on the train because her childcare arrangements were messed up because they were late. She was saying ‘please hold onto my child, I will be back soon’.”
Dennis Tan, of FGW passenger group OxRail, said: “Punctuality has been very very poor. It has been bad all year round.
“Because the service has not even stood still, it has gone backwards, it is dreadful they have decided to go for 4.2 per cent.”
It comes after FGW’s Banbury to London Paddington service was last month named the fifth most overcrowded in the UK.
The snapshot autumn 2011 survey found 356 people went for 225 seats for the 6.30am from Banbury.
FGW spokesman James Davis said: “We understand that these are tough times for many people but the money raised by Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services.”
Performance “has not been as good as it should have been over recent weeks” but some delays were down to Network Rail, he said.
Network Rail said flooding had impacted on services, adding: “We will continue to work with First Great Western to improve performance.”
Operators can vary fares from a cut of 0.8 per cent up to a 9.2 per cent increase – as long as the average is 4.2 per cent.
Chiltern Railways has increased Banbury and Bicester season tickets by 9.2 per cent, a rise of £5,476 to £5,976 for Banbury.
Cherwell Rail Users Group chairman Chris Bates said: “Commuters are going to be rightly furious.
“I can foresee protests ahead, especially since their service from Banbury is about to get worse.”
A new timetable introduced on December 9 has been criticised for replacing two non-stop morning services from Banbury with two that stop at Bicester North.
Chiltern scored 84.7 per cent for the one minute punctuality measure and 94.4 per cent for the five minute measure for April to November. It recorded 95.2 per cent for the five minute measure in 2008/09 and 95.2, 94 and 93 per cent in subsequent years.
Commercial director Thomas Ableman said: “We understand that fare increases are hard. To ensure long term viability of the franchise requires us to examine carefully our pricing against those of similar commuter markets.”
It said the Bicester increase was directly linked to its Evergreen 3 project to start running trains on a new line from Oxford to London from 2015.