How six per cent rail-fare rise became eight per cent

PUBLISHED: 09:49 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:51 06 May 2010

HARD-PRESSED rail commuters in the district are paying over the odds in the latest round of inflation-busting train fare increases. The LIbDem prospective Parliamentary candidate for St Albans, Sandy Walkington, says locall commuters have to pay increases

HARD-PRESSED rail commuters in the district are paying over the odds in the latest round of inflation-busting train fare increases.

The LIbDem prospective Parliamentary candidate for St Albans, Sandy Walkington, says locall commuters have to pay increases in fares considerably higher than the average six per cent increase in regulated fares for the First Capital Connect (FCC) network.

He said: "The increase in local peak fares has turned out to be a whopping eight per cent at a time when overall price inflation is plunging towards zero.

"FCC claim that they simply have to "average" their regulated fare increases at six per cent across their whole route network but I think this is a smokescreen to disguise the fact that we are being asked to subsidise other parts of the service."

Mr Walkington says FCC are taking advantage of the fact that they have a monopoly on providing the service and have "a captive audience".

He said: "It adds insult to injury that people herded onto overcrowded trains are expected to pay more for the privilege at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch"

He pointed out that while many firms were struggling to stay afloat, FCC made pre-tax profits of £54 million in the previous six months and their chief executive's pay package for the year was more than £1 million.

A spokesperson for FCC said regulated fares were rising on an average by inflation plus one per cent (six per cent).

He explained that the increases reflected the service they provided which was why FCC had increased regulated fares more for a 20-minute non-stop trip from St Albans to London on the Thameslink line compared to, for example, a 45-minute all-stations service from Hertford North on another line.

He also pointed out that a flat-rate, six per cent increase on all fares would lead to higher increases on some FCC lines than on others, citing King's Lynn where the cost of a season ticket was £5,000..

He said: "All operators set their prices by July's inflation rate so they can plan ahead for the many ticket types that need to be changed in January the following year."

Rail watchdog Passenger Focus (PF) has also hit out at the way steep rises on individual routes are masked by the average figures published by the industry.

PF chief executive Anthony Smith said: "The perpetual tinkering with ticket restrictions ensure back-door fare rises continue."

PF is calling for the Government and train firms to help passengers by halting any further excessive fare rises and immediately limiting the range within which regulated fares are allowed to rise.

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