RAIL passengers faced a miserable start to the new year with a 3.1 per cent hike in ticket prices.
Oxfordshire commuters returning to work after the Christmas break now have to stump up an extra £140 in some cases for their season tickets – taking the annual cost of travelling to London to £4,672. And that price means that since 2008 the fare from Oxford into the capital has gone up by 20 per cent.
Some commuters say they are now paying the same a month on their mortgages as they are travelling to work. And while some argue that the extra travel costs are not reflected in a better service many are backing calls to scrap the number of first class carriages on some of First Great Western (FGW) trains to provide extra seating on packed rush hour trains.
The rail provider last night confirmed it was in talks with the Department for Transport about making room for more standard price seats – a standard carriage contains 80 seats, 32 more than a first class carriage. Spokesman Dan Panes said “capacity issues” had been recognised as no first class carriages were regularly more than 70 per cent full.
He said: “By taking away one seat in first class we can provide two in standard class and that’s got to be a good thing.”
But some passengers do not think taxpayers should have to pay to ease overcrowding.
Dominic Utton, 41, of Osney Island, said: “It would be great if there were more standard class seats as first class can often be empty.
“I don’t understand why taxpayers should have to pay for thisthough. First Great Western should pay for it.”
Freelance journalist Mr Utton commutes to London Paddington and said under the new prices was now spending a fifth of his wages on travel – the same as he spends on his mortgage.
He said: “It is three times more than the average wage is increasing and in real terms it is going to hit people hard.
“More of my salary is going towards travel. The cost is going up 3.1 per cent, but I don’t think the service is improving .”
From yesterday, FGW increased its regulated fares, which includes season tickets, by an average of 3.1 per cent. But passengers are concerned that the increase in price is not reflected in an increase in service.
Commuter Paula Reid, who travels from Banbury to Oxford, said: “I have only just started using the service and in the 15 times I took a train in December, it was only on time three times.
And Headington resident Dennis Tan, who commutes to Paddington said: “It is absolutely infuriating because there has been no demonstrable improvement in service and the prices out-pace people’s earnings.”
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) claims the Government will in four years’ time profit from passengers. The group said by 2018, fares revenue will cover 103 per cent of the operating costs of the railways, up from 80 per cent in 2009.
Andrew Smith MP for Oxford East said: “These increases are yet another blow to the living standards of commuters and other local rail users. Fares have been going up faster than wages for years now. It would be quite wrong if, as forecast, the Government started to make a profit out of passengers.”
FGW Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “The money raised by Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services, however anything that reduces the price rises is good news for customers and the industry as a whole.”
John Scott, 39, who travels from Didcot to Oxford every day said “The cost really depends on what they are doing with the money. If it goes towards longer trains to help with overcrowding or going back into Network Rail, but if it is not, then I don’t think the Government should profit.”
Julie Eldridge, travels from Reading to Oxford during the week and said: “I think it is disgusting. The passengers are having to cover the cost and there seems to be no let up. It’s a 20 minute journey and it costs too much.”
Lois Partridge, 42, travels from Charlbury to Oxford each day. She said: “It is about a 40p increase on a ticket for me, which isn’t much, but it all adds up. The money should be invested in the rail services and on better trains.”
IT ALL ADDS UP
ANNUAL season ticket costs in 2014
- Oxford to London Paddington – £4,672
- Didcot to London Paddington – £4,672
- Bicester to London – £4,672
- Charlbury to London Paddington – £6,124
Cost of a seaon ticket from Oxford to London Paddington over the last six years
- 2013 – £4,532
- 2012 – £,4348
- 2011 – £4,104
- 2010 – £3,892
- 2009 – £3,996
- 2008 – £3,892