West Norfolk commuters set for new year rail fare hike
The cost of getting to work could rise by more than £100 next year for some West Norfolk rail passengers after new inflation figures were released.
Regulated rail fares, including season tickets, currently look set to rise by 1.6 per cent in January, following today’s announcement of the retail price inflation rate for July, on which the increase is calculated.
But, with ministers reportedly considering freezing fares following the coronavirus pandemic, campaign groups say more should be done to tempt passengers back onto the network.
An annual season ticket for travel between Lynn and London King’s Cross currently costs £7,612 including use of the capital’s Underground system, or £6,180 without.
A 1.6 per cent rise would add up to £122 to the price of those tickets and as much as £117 to the cost of similar travel from Downham to the capital.
The same level of increase on tickets for travel to Cambridge would add around £40 to commuters’ costs.
Some national media reports have suggested that the Government is considering freezing fares and shelving the rise, which traditionally comes into force on the first working day of the new year.
Ministers also say the rise would be the lowest for four years if it is implemented.
But Transport Focus, an independent watchdog representing service users, says measures similar to the Eat Out to Help Out initiative to support the hospitality sector are needed to boost demand.
Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “People’s feelings about travel, and the way they use public transport, have changed.
“While the rail leisure travel may bounce back, our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.
“The Government must go above and beyond a fares freeze and get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style ‘bundles’, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board.
“To get Britain moving again in the coming months, tickets that fit the way we live and travel now are needed, not just season tickets designed for city gents in the last century.
“Like the Government’s restaurant deal, we need a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.”
Robert Nisbet, of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators, said: “Decisions about regulated rail fares, including season tickets, are taken by governments who rightly make the choice about the balance between how much farepayers and taxpayers contribute.
“We know that the best way to support economic recovery now and keep fares down in the future is to get more people travelling by train.
“This is why we are delivering our safer travel pledge, are working with government on flexible season tickets and want to work with government to update regulation so that we can build an easier to use, better value fares system which suits changes to how people travel.”
The debate over fares comes as passengers are warned of fresh disruption to their journeys over the coming weeks because of planned engineering works.
Buses will replace trains between Lynn and Downham from August 28 to 31, over the bank holiday weekend, while the Tennyson Avenue level crossing will also be closed to road traffic.
The measures are being imposed as part of the project to enable eight-coach trains to run routinely between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four-coach units.
A new extended siding to house the longer units is being built close to the Lynn station as part of the multi-million pound scheme.
And services to London will start and terminate at Finsbury Park over the weekend of September 5 and 6 so work on a £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line can continue.