St Albans politicians condemn First Capital Connect fare rises on Thameslink line

RAIL commuters heading back to work this week after the Christmas break have faced an increase of nearly four per cent in the cost of their travel.

First Capital Connect (FCC) has raised its fares by 3.9 per cent – slightly less than the average 4.2 per cent price hike – with the cost of peak time parking at the stations also increasing by up to four per cent except for the Victoria Street car park in St Albans where the charge has been frozen.

Super off-peak tickets which are valid on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, have been frozen for the second year in succession except at Harpenden where they have increased by 50p.

Neal Lawson, managing director of FCC, said: “Only three pence in every pound that train operating companies receive is profit.

“Even so, for the second year running we have frozen the majority of our super off-peak weekend fares. Price increases at our car parks have been kept to a miniumum.”

St Albans council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, said the rise would be acceptable if the increase was reinvested along the Thameslink line.

He pointed out that 12-carriage trains were being introduced and station improvements carried out but conceded they had taken a long time to come to fruition.

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Local Lib Dem campaigners Sandy Walkington and Chris White called for an end to above-inflation rail fare increases.

Mr Walkington, prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for St Albans, said: “After 10 years of above-inflation rises, it’s time to call a halt.

“Our previous research has shown that the St Albans-London commute mile for mile is just about the most expensive anywhere.

“The government-sponsored McNulty Review showed that costs can be taken out of the industry and overheads reduced – it’s time that travellers see those benefits.”

Cllr Chris White, a regular commuter with FCC, said: “Rises for users of the Thameslink route leave a particularly bitter taste in the mouth.

“We pay increasingly through the nose for a rail service which is increasingly unreliable. Trains fail on an all too regular basis. It’s time to get our rail services back on track and for a halt to these punitive fare increases.”