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The BBC's Simon Montague
"Passengers have suffered weeks of the worst disruption they have ever known"
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Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 13:43 GMT
Train fares increase investigated

GNER was one of the few companies to freeze fares
The government has ordered an investigation into above inflation price rises for some rail tickets.

Passenger groups have attacked the increases, branding them "insensitive" at a time when many services are in disarray.

New ticket prices are being brought in on 7 January.

London-based Silverlink has come in for particular criticism after putting up its prices by 4.3%, despite finishing bottom of the latest customer satisfaction poll.

John Prescott
John Prescott: Ordered a full report
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he had asked the Rail Authority to look into the fare increases, though he stressed that regulated fares had seen a reduction in prices.

Speaking during a visit to Leeds station, where he viewed work on a 165m improvement programme, Mr Prescott said: "Many companies are able to offer cheap fares which are unregulated.

"Some have decided to freeze them, others have decided to increase them.

"I have asked the Rail Authority to give me a full report on it. I know it has caused a great deal of concern."

'No compensation'

Cynthia Hay, spokeswoman for London's Capital Transport Campaign Group said: "Under the fare-capping system every train operating company can increase the cash price of commuter fares in 2001, even when their performance has got dramatically worse.

"Commuters are not being compensated for the ongoing deterioration in rail services they have experienced."

First Great Eastern, which operates out of London's Liverpool Street station to Essex and East Anglia, is raising some fares by 3.3%.

For passengers to pay an above-inflation rise at this time seems like a complete smack in the teeth. It is appalling

Brian Cooke, passenger group spokesman
"This is a particularly insensitive time to impose a large price rise," said Brian Cooke, chairman of the Rail Passengers Council's Great Eastern sub-committee.

"For passengers to pay an above-inflation rise at this time seems like a complete smack in the teeth. It is appalling."

Rises at other companies include a 4.9% increase on some off-peak fares on South West Trains, 3.3% increases on Connex peak fares, and 3.3% increases on Central Trains' off-peak tickets.

Fares have been frozen by East Coast operator GNER and by Virgin on its West Coast main line and CrossCountry services.

All these routes have been particularly badly hit by speed restrictions imposed after the Hatfield crash.

The deputy prime minister has made no attempt to hide his frustration at the delays faced by rail passengers.

Before Christmas he gave senior rail managers an ultimatum to deliver new sustainable timetables and better information to the travelling public.

Railtrack has also launched a recruitment drive with the aim of finding 1,000 new members of staff.

The company is looking for 700 signallers and 300 engineers as it attempts to get services back to normal after the Hatfield crash.

Mr Prescott wants rail bosses to minimise delays to passengers as soon as possible, but he is acutely aware of the public clamour for the industry to ensure safety is paramount.

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24 Dec 00 | UK
Christmas rush hits coaches
21 Dec 00 | UK
20m for delayed commuters
13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Prescott: Rail delays up to Easter
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