Commuters face a hike in fares

COMMUTERS in Comet country started the New Year facing an increase of up to nearly eight per cent on the price of their rail travel. Ticket prices have increased across the region, with rail users from Sandy and Biggleswade the worst hit. In Sandy, a comm

COMMUTERS in Comet country started the New Year facing an increase of up to nearly eight per cent on the price of their rail travel.

Ticket prices have increased across the region, with rail users from Sandy and Biggleswade the worst hit.

In Sandy, a commuter buying a monthly season ticket to London will have to pay 7.69 per cent more than last year, an increase of £22.70.

Annual season tickets from Sandy have gone up by 6.89 per cent or £212.

Commuters travelling from Biggleswade to London have also been hit hard, with annual season tickets going up by 6.87 per cent (£204) and monthly tickets increasing by £19.60, a rise of 6.88 per cent on last year.

Elsewhere in the area, people travelling from Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth GC, Arlesey, Baldock and Knebworth to London faced increases of between 1.88 per cent and 2 per cent.

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The increase was slammed by Stevenage's Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Stephen McPartland, who said he was setting up a Stevenage rail users group.

He added: "Rail companies seem to be intent on squeezing more money from passengers who have to squeeze onto overcrowded trains.

"I am constantly shocked by how overcrowded the trains are in this area and year after year nothing is done.

"Local people who have no option but to travel by train are being punished for their reliance on public transport at a time when the Government wants us to get out of our cars and onto public transport.

"Overcrowding needs to be dealt with through improvements in service and capacity, not price rises."

Stevenage MP Barbara Follett said: "Like everyone else I am most concerned that the costs of environmentally friendly public transport are rising so steeply.

"Rail users are particularly hard hit and I am working with the Stevenage Transport Forum - which covers all forms of transport and absorbed the old Stevenage Rail Users Group to which I belonged - to see what can be done to help commuters.

"I am glad that the Conservative party is finally beginning to take an interest in the railways.

"However, the last time they did so resulted in the privatised network which is the source of so many of our current problems."

A spokesman for train operator First Capital Connect said: "We are investing heavily in our service to enhance the journey experience of passengers.

"This includes a £2m improvement programme for all our trains that operate on the Great Northern route.

"In particular, this work will focus on upgrading the seating and flooring of the trains.

"We are also making improvements to our stations, including installing additional CCTV cameras.

"In addition, First Capital Connect has a dedicated team of police community support officers patrolling the network.

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