Rail user groups’ disappointed over fare increase

Cancellations and delays are still causing mass overcrowding on commuter trains to and from London.

Cancellations and delays are still causing mass overcrowding on commuter trains to and from London. Picture: Jason Flynn - Credit: Archant

Rail users groups across North Herts have expressed their anger at the increase in train fares which came into effect today, despite the disruption caused by the May 2018 timetable.

Ticket prices were increased by an average of 2.97 per cent for Govia Thameslink-run services including Great Northern – just shy of the 3.1 per cent national average – much to the consternation of commuters who have suffered with delayed and cancelled trains for much of 2018.

Season tickets and most anytime fares are regulated by the government and were set to rise by the July rate of inflation of 3.2 per cent, but the increase to off-peak and other fares has reduced GTR’s average figure.

But that’s little consolation to those who have suffered at the hands of the May 2018 timetable 2018, with a plea for fares to be frozen by the Department for Transport falling on deaf ears.

Stevenage railway station – which is used by 14,000 commuters every day – was among many affected stations and the price hike has left members of the Stevenage Rail Users Group disappointed.

A spokesman told this paper: “It’s very disappointing that the season ticket price increase has gone ahead and completely unjustified given the poor service since May 2018.

“Stevenage has been one of the more impacted stations due to the timetable revisions, so has suffered more than its fair share of disruption.

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“Commuters feel let down that such a decision could be taken despite reduced services and the poor planning shown.

“The general consensus is that the fair and proper thing to have done would have been to reduce the price of a season ticket – not increase it.”

Letchworth Rail User Group and Royston & Villages Rail Users Group called the fare increase “unjustified” in a joint statement that said: “A fare freeze would obviously have been appropriate given the unprecedented disruption of 2018.

“Instead, weary passengers are facing another completely unjustified fare increase.

“The fact remains that the weekday May 2018 timetable was only delivered in December 2018 and we are stuck with a wholly inadequate emergency weekend timetable until May 2018, a whole 12 months late.

“The simple point is that the government has once again decided to treat rail passengers with contempt, thinks it fair that we should bear the cost of last year’s terrible disruption and should be asked to pay more for a worse service in 2019.

“Happy new year indeed.”

Rosalind Southward from the Hitchin Rail Commuters group believes more needs to be done for commuters.

“It’s just a disgrace. It’s infuriating,” she said.

“Regardless of the problems still ongoing, there’s still a focus on the profits of the railway companies.

“In terms of Hitchin, an adequate service that’s good enough for the people that use it is what we need.”

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink said: “We appreciate that many of our passengers have had a difficult year. Thameslink and Great Northern services are back on track and on December 10 we introduced 200 extra services to complete the rollout of the May timetable. We thank passengers for their patience.”

Govia – which does not set the fares nor take a share of the ticket revenue, instead collecting a management fee – also highlighted some discounts available to Great Northen customers.

A spokesman said: “Accompanied children can still travel for a flat fare of £2 on many journeys (which is half the price of that offered in many other parts of the country).

“Passengers using off-peak day tickets can now travel home from London during the evening peak at no extra charge to stations on the Peterborough and Cambridge routes, north from Potters Bar and north from Cuffley.

“For example, a passenger who travels on the first off-peak train at 09:47 from Stevenage and buys a One Day Travelcard did have to pay £31.90 to return in the evening peak (between 16:29 and 19:02). From today, January 2, they will be able to buy an off-peak ticket to do this for just £26.20, saving £5.70.

“Passengers can also make further savings. Off-peak tickets (unlike peak tickets) allow passengers to take up to four children with them for just £2 each and if they are travelling with at least another two adults they will also save a third off with a GroupSave discount, again with no time restriction on their journey home.

“Those stations that do not currently have an evening peak restriction on the use of an off-peak day ticket will still benefit from the introduction of new super off-peak weekday tickets.”

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