St Albans and Harpenden commuters react to rail fare increase

A Thameslink train at Potters Bar train station. Picture: DANNY LOO.

A Thameslink train at Potters Bar train station. Picture: DANNY LOO. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

This morning’s announcement rail fares will rise by 3.1 per cent “rubs salt in the wounds of St Albans passengers”, an action group has said.

The Rail Delivery Group, made up of train companies, announced the increase will come in on January 2.

The news comes after nearly a year of disruption on St Albans district’s railways following a botched timetable change in May.

St Albans Commuter & Passenger Action group spokesperson and Lib Dem candidate Will Tucker said: “Today’s announcement by the Rail Delivery Group rubs salt in the wounds of long-suffering St Albans passengers.

“Given the atrocious implementation of timetable changes, which have still not been fully rectified, a price rise is indefensible.

“A poll today of our 1,000 members shows they feel the price rise is unjustified, but they feel trapped with no alternative option for travel into London.”

For St Albans commuters travelling into London, the average increase will raise the price of an annual season ticket from £3,500 to £3,609.

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It was also announced earlier today that the Oyster card network of electronic tickets would be extended to St Albans.

Of this, Mr Tucker said: “We welcome the extension of the Oyster Card and contactless scheme to Luton.

“We proposed this extension within the 80 page report submitted by the action group to the Transport Select Committee inquiry earlier this year and should make travelling from St Albans easier for people.

“It’s good to know that our campaigns are getting through.”

The leader of the Harpenden Thameslink Commuters group Emily Ketchin said: “With 75 per cent fewer trains on a weekend coupled with a 30 per cent reduction of key Harpenden services, it is staggering how a fare increase can be contemplated, let alone actually implemented.

“What makes the situation even more of a disgrace is that we at Harpenden are stood on crowded platforms waiting an inordinate amount of time for a packed train to get onto while the Thameslink Express Trains that no longer stop at Harpenden, and have led to the huge reduction in key services, whizz past with plenty of empty seats.

“The Department for Transport and Thameslink have to take urgent action to reinstate our Harpenden services.”

The latest rise is below the inflation rate, for the fourth time in the last six years.

Over the past few years, the Government has sought to shift the burden of paying for railway upkeep to passengers instead of taxpayers.

The chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, Paul Plummer, said: “Nobody wants to pay more to travel, especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year.

“Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy.

“That means more seats, extra services and better connections right across the country.”

A GTR spokesperson said: “Fares on Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express will rise by an average of 2.97 per cent, which is less than the rate of inflation and less than the national average.

“We understand many of our passengers have had a difficult year, for which the additional compensation scheme has refunded passengers up to four weeks’ worth of fares, which is far more than a fares freeze.

“Thameslink and Great Northern services are back on track and on December 10 we are introducing 200 extra mainly off-peak services to complete the rollout of the May timetable.

“We thank passengers for their patience.”