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Passengers hit out over rail fare hikes
COMMUTERS last night hit out at an inflation-busting 6.2 per cent increase in Rail fares.
They said the move would hit recession-weary travellers and damage the economy by putting more than £250 on the cost of an annual Oxford to London season ticket.
It means a First Great Western (FGW) Oxford to London season ticket will have gone from £4,104 in 2001, to £4,348 in 2012 and £4,617 in 2013.
The January 1 increase is based on the July retail prices index (RPI) figure of inflation, announced yesterday as 3.2 per cent.
On top of that the Government will next year for the first time add three per cent extra in a bid to improve the country’s railways.
It has previously added just one per cent and this year the fares rise was 5.9 per cent.
West Oxford resident Dom Utton, above – who wrote a highly-critical blog of his daily commute to the capital – said: “The service is not increasing by 6.2 per cent every year, I wonder what we are paying for. It is a ridiculous situation where nothing is getting any better but you are paying more money for it.”
Cherwell Rail Users Group chairman Chris Bates said: “People aren’t getting 6.2 per cent pay rises.
“Commuters are going to get hit in the pocket again and there will be less money to spend on helping the economy recover.”
Passenger Focus director David Sidebottom said: “For hard-pressed passengers, especially those who rely on the train to get to work, the prospect of another increase is a worrying one.”
Ministers said the rise was vital to make rail passengers meet more of the cost of running and improving the network, rather than taxpayers. Train operators will be able to set fare increases ranging from 1.2 per cent to 11.2 per cent, as long as the average rise across all their fares is 6.2 per cent.
OxRail passenger group’s Dennis Tan, who commutes from Oxford to London each day, said the highest increases must not hit city commuters. “No-one’s salary is increasing by 6.2 per cent in this climate,” he said.
“To add insult to injury, the maintenance and punctuality is not even at a desirable level.”
Punctuality on FGW’s Thames Valley services was 85.1 per cent in June and July this year, against a target of 92 per cent and the company’s services have been among the UK’s most crowded in recent years.
The firm is reintroducing five Class Adelante 180 trains to its fleet and adding an extra 80-seat coach to High Speed Trains to ease rush-hour overcrowding.
First Great Western spokesman James Davis said: “We understand that these are tough times for many people but the money raised by the Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services.”
The county’s other train operators, Chiltern Railways and CrossCountry, declined to comment on the increases.
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said the Government was spending £18bn over the next few years on a “massive programme” of improvements to the railway network.
She said: “Rail fares are helping to deliver this at a time when taxpayer funds are limited by the pressing need to tackle the deficit.”
Forthcoming improvement projects on the county’s railways over the next five years include a new Chiltern Railways service from Oxford to London Marylebone via Bicester and the reopening of the East West link between Oxford and Milton Keynes through Bicester.
The showpiece project is the electrification and resignalling of the Great Western main line and the launch of new electric express trains. These will start running between Oxford, Didcot and London from December 2016, followed by services from Didcot to Bristol and South Wales the following year.
The line from Oxford to Banbury, Leamington Spa and Coventry will also be fitted with overhead electric power cables by 2019.
- WHAT a 6.2 per cent increase would mean for rush-hour fares:
Oxford or Didcot to London Paddington
Peak return £54 up to £57.34
One month £417.50 up to £443.39
Annual £4,348 up to £4,617.58
- Bicester North to London Marylebone
Peak return £22.50 up to £23.90
One month £389.80 up to £413.97
Annual £4,060 up to £4,311.72
- Banbury to Oxford
Peak return £10.90 up to £11.58
One month £171.70 up to £182.34
Annual £1,788 up to £1,898.86
- Oxford to Reading
Peak return £14.20 up to £15.08
One Month £227.80 up to £241.92
Annual £2,372 up to £2,519.10