King's Lynn rail campaigners angry at 2.8 per cent fare rise
Campaigners demanding a return to public ownership of the railways have claimed widespread support for the idea following a protest in Lynn this week.
The demonstration, which took place outside the town’s station on Wednesday, coincided with the news that regulated fares, such as season tickets, are set to rise by 2.8 per cent in January.
Industry bosses have insisted passengers are already benefitting from increased investment.
But Lynn campaign co-ordinator Jo Rust said travellers here were being “held to ransom” by a lack of improvements to the line and viable transport alternatives.
She said: “These fare increases will take more money out of the pockets of hard-working commuters.”
The increases in regulated rail fares are based on the retail prices index figure for July, which stood at 2.8 per cent.
Although that figure is down slightly on the previous month, it still means commuters face having to fork out up to £200 extra to get to work next year.
An annual season ticket for travel between Lynn and London King’s Cross currently costs £6,012, or £7,404 for one including the use of the London Underground.
Those costs are now set to rise by around £168 and £207 respectively when the increases are implemented on January 2.
Although the rises for travel from Watlington and Downham to the capital will be slightly lower than that, passengers can still expect to have to pay out at least £160 more from January.
And the price of an annual season ticket to go from any of West Norfolk’s stations to Cambridge is also set to jump by at least £62.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, says they want to reform the fare system and the rises will enable money from private sector sources and taxpayers can be invested into long-term improvements to the network.
Robert Nisbet, the group’s director of nations and regions, said: “No-one wants to pay more to get to work but by holding rises down to no more than inflation, money from fares will continue to cover almost all of the day-to-day costs of running rail services.
“Rail users across the country are already seeing and feeling the benefits of this investment with new trains and more services running across the country.”
Opinion polls have suggested there is strong public support for renationalising the railways.
Mrs Rust claimed only one person they spoke to at the station opposed the idea, because they did not want to return to British Rail.
She said: “Nobody is saying we should go back to the old days when we had a terrible service.
“What we want is to look at other countries that are running a state-run railway and running it successfully.”
Campaigners are calling for the existing franchises to be brought back into public ownership when their existing contracts expire.
They argue the success of the East Coast main line, which is estimated to have generated around £1 billion for the public purse while it was in public ownership, shows what could be achieved, though opponents claim the public ownership of Network Rail actually makes improving the network more expensive.
And the protest also coincided with the announcement that a state-owned Italian rail operator, Trenitalia, is part of a consortium which will take over the West Coast main line.
Mrs Rust said: “If we’re happy for an Italian, state-run railway service to take over, why can’t we do it ourselves?”