Anger as West Norfolk rail commuters face 3.5 per cent fare hike

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Passengers in Lynn have been urged to join the fight for a more affordable rail network on the day that another round of fare rises was announced.

Regulated fares, such as season tickets, are set to go up by 3.5 per cent in January, which could add up to £230 to the cost of an annual ticket from Lynn to London.

The move has angered activists, who staged a protest outside Lynn’s station on Tuesday morning, as part of Action for Rail’s nationwide campaign to return the network to public ownership.

Organisers estimate they gave around 400 freepost postcards, which contain a message to MPs calling on them to support the renationalisation of the network, to passengers.

And King’s Lynn and District Trades Council secretary Jo Rust believes their stance has the support of most passengers.

She said: “We’ve only had two people who said they’re OK. Everybody is very interested.”

The level of fare increases is set at one per cent above the July retail prices index, which was 2.5 per cent.

That means the cost of an annual season ticket from Lynn to London King’s Cross is set to rise by around £180 in the new year to more than £5,500, and £230 from the current £6,576 for passengers whose tickets include use of the London Underground.

And the price of an annual season ticket between Lynn and Cambridge, currently £2,136, would rise by around £75 under the same formula.

Although passengers have faced annual above-inflation increases since 2004, Mrs Rust insisted that the extra money was not being seen in an improved service.

She is also concerned that the rises could hurt West Norfolk’s economy, by giving passengers less money to spend in local shops.

There have already been calls for the chancellor, George Osborne, to intervene to stop the increases.

She said: “We’re not paying for the railways. We’re paying for private profits.”

But the Rail Delivery Group, which comprises representatives of train operating companies and Network Rail, who maintain the tracks, claims that company profits only account for three per cent of the cost of a ticket.

Director general Michael Roberts said: “Money from fares pays for more trains, better stations and faster services on what is already Europe’s fastest growing, safest and most improved railway.

“Over the next five years, £38 billion will be invested in improving the network.

“Our commitment is to enable future government fares decisions which work best for passengers, by continuing to get more out of every pound that we spend and by encouraging more train travel to pay for services and improvements.”