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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Rail firms forced to cut fares
Passengers at Liverpool Street station
Passengers in London and South East will pay less for fares
Train fares will rise by well under the rate of inflation next year.

Rail passengers in London and the South East will see fares fall over the next 12 months because of poor train service performances.

The industry's penalty system will force train companies to reduce fares by an average of 1.4% following safety and timetable problems of the last year.

These fare decreases in London and the south east will be welcomed by passengers, providing further compensation for the disruption suffered in the post-Hatfield (crash) period

Mike Grant
SRA chief executive
Confirmation of the price reduction comes as latest figures reveal at least one in four long-distance trains was late over the last three months.

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) says regulated fares operated by long-distance and regional train companies will be held to a rate of inflation minus 1%.

This means these fares will rise by an average of 0.6% from January, based on the July 2001 inflation figure.

The companies to offer the 1.4% reduction are c2c (London to Southend), Chiltern, First Great Eastern, Connex South Eastern, South Central (except for South London services), South West Trains, Thames Trains, Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern.

The one exception to this for London and South East England commuters is for south London services in the South Central franchise - prices there will drop by 1.1%.

1.4% fare cuts
c2c (London to Southend)
First Great Eastern
Connex South Eastern
South Central (except for South London services)
South West Trains
Thames Trains
West Anglia Great Northern
"These fare decreases in London and the South East will be welcomed by passengers, providing further compensation for the disruption suffered in the post-Hatfield (crash) period," said SRA chief executive Mike Grant.

Stewart Francis, of the Rail Passengers' Council, said he thought passengers would prefer that their trains would run on time and be more reliable than fare reductions.

SRA rules allow train companies to change fares so the overall average is in line with the stipulated figure, meaning not all fares will fall by 1.4% and some could even rise.

This also applies to the long-distance and regional companies.

An estimated 39% of train companies' fare revenue is regulated and other fares can rise or fall at the discretion of the individual companies.

SRA research confirms that from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, there was an increase of 3.09% in the average standard class fare paid per mile against an inflation rate of 3.0%.

Punctuality league table
Worst performer - Great Western
Best performers - Chiltern, and Isle of Wight Island Line
From 1995-1996 to 2000-2001, the cumulative increase in the average standard class fare paid was 15.34% - compared to the 14.2% increase in average inflation.

The SRA has also revealed a deterioration in train punctuality after an improvement in early summer.

The worst performing rail company was Great Western, which ran only 56.3% of its trains on time between 24 June and 21 July.

The only companies with improved punctuality in July compared with June were Midland Mainline, Anglia (Intercity services), Virgin West Coast, First Great Eastern, Thameslink and Arriva Trains Northern.

Apart from the small-scale Isle of Wight Island Line, the best performing company in July was Chiltern - it managed to run 91.1% of trains on time.

Only six of the 25 passenger rail companies had better figures for the 24 June to 21 July 21 period than for between 27 May and 23 June.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"The rail companies keep promising that things will get better"
Sean O'Neill, Rail Passengers Committee
"We'd like to see all companies brought into this scheme"
See also:

02 Apr 01 | Scotland
Rail company cuts fares
11 Jan 01 | Business
Branson halves rail fares
20 Feb 01 | UK
Railways struggle on
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