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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 17:33 GMT
'A bad day' for rail passengers
Passengers buying tickets
Above-inflation rises are necessary for investment says the rail industry
Rail fares in the UK are set for an above-inflation rise of 4% on average next year.

It has also emerged some passengers trying to plan ahead for Christmas cannot yet book cheaper advance tickets because of uncertainty over track work.

Season tickets and saver fares are to go up 4%, while rail firms' cheap day returns and advance bookings will rise by between 2% and 7.2%.

"It's a bad day for passengers," said rail campaigner Stewart Francis.

Click here for a list of each train company's fare rises

Mr Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers Council (RPC), said thousands were unable to finalise plans to visit friends and relatives for Christmas because Network Rail was not giving enough notice to some train companies about engineering works over the period.

This has delayed the publication of timetables and prevented some people from booking ahead, which is necessary for those seeking cheaper advance fares.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think they need the extra funding to help co-ordinate the delayed trains across the country
David Berry, UK

"This is hitting passengers in the pocket," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said passengers would be able to start making seven-day advance bookings by the end of next week, and vowed it would be the last Christmas such "unprecedented" problems existed.

Mr Francis said Network Rail should at least concentrate on getting information out over Christmas.

He said their weekly spot-checks had highlighted booking delays on Virgin, First Great Western, South West Trains and Scotrail.

Passengers at London's Euston station give their views on the rail fare increases.

A Network Rail spokesman said the firm appreciated travellers' frustration.

"But with a very few exceptions, we have met the target of producing a Christmas timetable four weeks ahead.

"It is important to remember the context that we are carrying out three times as much engineering works as was being done five years ago. The production of the timetable is a mammoth task."

Meanwhile, passengers are facing fare increases from 2 January.

The rail industry says the rises are necessary to help pay for investment to improve services, but one rail union has dismissed those claims as "disingenuous".

Regulated fares - set by the Strategic Rail Authority and including season and saver tickets - will rise on average by 4%.

Unregulated fares - determined by individual rail companies - such as cheap day returns, long distance open tickets and advance purchases will increase by varying amounts, also averaging around 4%.

The production of the (Christmas) timetable is a mammoth task
Network Rail spokesman

Passengers will be asked to pay 7.2% more on tickets for some Silverlink services into London Euston station.

The lowest increase, at 2%, is on Hull Trains.

Passengers are being promised they will notice the benefits, and some season ticket holders will get discounts because of poor punctuality.

Mr Muir told BBC Breakfast there had been "huge investment" in the railways in recent years, with 7bn spent on the west coast main line alone.

More trains on the railways, new fast trains to Manchester and station regenerations had also been provided, he said.

"Money is going into railways across the whole country - we are step by step delivering things to passengers," he said.

But the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) union claimed ATOC was trying to "hoodwink" the public into thinking that the fare hike would improve reliability and services.

Taxpayer's money

Rail companies retained millions in compensation paid to them by Network Rail for delays attributable to the infrastructure, said the union.

General secretary Gerry Doherty said: "It is disingenuous of ATOC to suggest that they will use fare increases to improve services when the funds raised will not help Network Rail to make the trains run on time or reduce future compensation payments."

"Large investments such as 7bn spent on the West coast main line were funded by the taxpayer not by the train companies from their fare revenue, he added.

"If Britain's trains are to get moving, it is infrastructure which needs to be improved and this is the responsibility of Network Rail. Raising fare prices will only place a greater burden on an already disgruntled travelling public."

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Rail fare rises for 2005
Train company Average rise %
(regulated fares)
Average rise %
(unregulated fares)
Arriva Trains Wales 3.8 3.8
C2c 4 5
Central Trains 4 3
Chiltern Railways 4 6
First Great Western 4 2.6
First Great Western Link 4 5
First Scotrail 4 4
Gatwick Express 3.8 3.8
GNER 3.8 4.3
Great Northern (WAGN) 4 3.6
Hull Trains 2 2
Island Line 3.8 4
Merseyrail 3.1 3.1
Midland Mainline 4 3.5
Northern 4 3
ONE 4 3.5
Silverlink 4 7.2
South Eastern Trains 4 3
Southern 4 4-5
SWT 4 4.5
Thameslink 4 4.5
Trans-Pennine Express 3.6 4.5
Virgin Cross Country 4 4.5
Virgin West Coast 3.6 3.6
Wessex Trains 4 4
Source: Association of Train Operating Companies




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What the fare increases will mean for passengers




SEE ALSO:
End of line for cheap day fares
18 Sep 04 |  Leicestershire
Rail users 'denied cheap tickets'
24 Aug 04 |  Business
Rail fare rise criticised
02 Jul 04 |  Northern Ireland


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