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Annual season ticket prices rise by an average of 3.1 per cent
PASSENGERS took a poor view of rail fare increases today as annual season tickets rose by an average of 3.1 per cent.
In the cold and dark at King's Cross station in London, travellers spoke of their anger at the annual rise and their view that rail travel offered poor value for money.
"It's a lot of money for a poor service," said teacher Simon Jones, 30, as he waited to board a train to Newcastle upon Tyne with his friend Ben James, 33.
Mr Jones was on a leisure trip today but he and Mr James normally commute to work in London from Wandsworth in south west London.
Mr Jones said: "Fares are pretty high. My salary has just gone up one per cent but fares are rising around three per cent. There are delays on practically every day."
Mr James said: "We're not really getting value for money. At Clapham Junction you can hardly get on a train."
Also leaving from King's Cross today, on a trip to Edinburgh, were Derek Petrie and his wife Kim. Mr Petrie said: "I think rail travel is expensive."
Mrs Petries said: "Our son-in-law was a regular rail traveller but tends to cycle these days due to the expense."
The 3.1 per cent rise taking effect today is for regulated fares which include season tickets. The increase on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.
But a number of these fares, including some on the East Coast route, are going up by much less than 3.1 per cent, with the overall rise in tickets - regulated and unregulated - being 2.8 per cent.
The regulated fare increase pushes some commuters into the £5,000-a-year "club", with annual season tickets to London from Deal and Dover Priory costing £5,012.
The rise also means some annual season tickets will break the £4,000 mark, with a Basingstoke-London annual fare now costing £4,076.
The Department for Transport said the Government understood concerns rail passengers had about the costs of fares and their impact on household budgets, which was why fares had been limited to the rate of inflation.
The department added that the fares passengers paid would "continue to drive forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever, with £38 billion being invested over the next five years".
Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said the fare rise was "a continuation of David Cameron's cost-of-living crisis", while Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said 2014 was "all set to be another year of racketeering and greed on Britain's privatised railways".
Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans said: "Commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren't increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation."
Consumer group Which? said the fare increases "will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze", while campaign group Railfuture said: "This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe."
Speaking at King's Cross today, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "I think the public quite rightly thinks the Government should be doing more and we shall be pressing the train companies and Network Rail to provide value for money."
He was asked about a Daily Mail story which said the Government planned to pay train companies to convert first-class carriages into accommodation for all passengers.
Mr Hammond replied that in offering new franchises the Government was looking at a number of options for rail travel and was in negotiations with a number of train companies about a number of ideas.
On the claim that rail travel was far more expensive in the UK than in parts of Europe, Mr Hammond said that some of the comparisons had been made using some of the more-expensive UK routes and some of the ultra-cheap European ones.
He said that many UK comparable fares were cheaper than the Rome to Naples route in Italy.
Mr Hammond said: "We made extra money available so fares did not rise above the inflation rate. Labour have spoken of a cost-of-living crisis but it is they that caused it. We are a Government that is protecting the consumer today and investing in the future."
Are the price hikes justified? Have your say below.
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