Rail price increases see North Herts commuters squeezed again

Hitchin commuter Elizabeth Dennis.

Hitchin commuter Elizabeth Dennis. - Credit: Archant

Hard-pressed North Herts commuters are feeling the squeeze in the new year after train fares were hiked again.

Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Hitchin Rachel Burgin.

Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Hitchin Rachel Burgin. - Credit: Archant

This year’s increase sees rises of up to 2.5 per cent for regulated fares, which include season tickets, with prices going up by an average of 2.2 per cent.

Labour’s Hitchin prospective parliamentary candidate Rachel Burgin, who was at the town railway station on Tuesday morning as part of a wider leafleting campaign, said: “North Herts commuters now pay nearly £4,000 a year to Kings Cross. We’re at a tipping point as hard-working people here now find it too expensive to commute to their jobs in London and are being priced out of their careers, which has massive social consequences.”

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley told the Comet: “Nobody welcomes any increase in rail fares.

“But this rise is particularly hard to swallow given the appalling performance in recent months. I am meeting the secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin and other MPs on the Govia line to state our concerns about the way it is run.

“I have also written to Govia asking how they can justify this increase and what action they are taking to improve the quality of service to passengers from Hitchin.”

Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Great Northern franchise to London, said: “Season tickets are government regulated and rose by a flat rate of 2.5 per cent on January 2 – the rate of inflation. The increase is effectively a fares freeze.”

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Hitchin commuter Elizabeth Dennis, who works in London’s Canary Wharf, said: “It’s frustrating because we pay so much and get so little back. My season ticket cost me £4,780 last year. It does feel like an extra income tax.

“I want a politician to offer tax relief on these tickets as they are so expensive. It’s at a tipping point for many commuters here because it’s so expensive to get to work as average wages don’t match fare increases.

“As a working mum, with childcare costs I lose £11,000 from my annual salary – just for the privilege of working.”

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said: “I commute from my home in Stevenage. I share the pain of passengers facing price rises. The railway industry is broken and – like many other passengers – I don’t get value for money.”

And the town’s Labour parliamentary hopeful Sharon Taylor said: “We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis, these rises couldn’t have come at a worse time.”