Reduction in cheaper rail fares is another blow for train users

Off-peak train tickets on Northern Rail can no longer be used for return journeys in the evening rush-hour

Off-peak train tickets on Northern Rail can no longer be used for return journeys in the evening rush-hour

First published in News
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Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant Editor (Content)

Rail users have been given more bad news with the announcement by train company Northern Rail that it is axing some off-peak fares in West Yorkshire.

And this, according to some, is a taste of things to come... perhaps paving the way for the end of cheaper rail travel on some routes.

Northern has announced that from September 8 off-peak tickets can no longer be used at peak times during weekday evenings on certain services.

This essentially makes the rush-hour journeys used by many commuters much more expensive.

The affected journeys are those wholly within the Metro West Yorkshire, Travel South Yorkshire and Transport for Greater Manchester areas and some routes radiating from these areas.

Also included is the Hexham to Newcastle line, but no changes are being made in the Merseytravel ticketing area as evening peak restrictions have been in place for many years.

Northern said the changes were being made "after the Department for Transport (DfT) asked Northern to look at several options to generate additional revenue as part of its new franchise agreement (which goes on until February 2016)."

Northern added: "The change to off-peak tickets is the only option that has been taken forward and will be used to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers by reducing subsidy to Northern."

James MacColl, Campaigns Director at pressure group Campaign for Better Transport said: "Introducing evening peak-time fares on Northern Rail is counterproductive and unfair. Given the crowded and decrepit state of some of the trains, the focus from Government and Northern Rail should be on investment and attracting more passengers, not hitting exist train users with fare hikes.

"Passengers will be asking themselves if this price increase is a sign of things to come. The north of England needs fast, high capacity and high quality rail connections. Our Right Track North campaign is pushing for the investment to make this a reality, rather than price hikes that discourage rail travel."

Transport union the RMT also fears the move is "a taste of what's to come" when new Northern and new TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises come into effect in 2016.

The DfT is currently consulting on the new Northern and TPE franchises ahead of the launch of a bidding process.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: "The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity and the fact that it has been cooked up by the DfT in collusion with the privatisation pirates from Northern Rail is a warning of what's to come.

"Let's not forget that the core of the Government's future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate. That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun."

Mr Cash went on: "RMT is stepping up the fight to both inform the public and fight the savage cuts being lined up for these Northern rail franchises.

"We have been getting fantastic support, thousands of post cards have been distributed and the political and public pressure is growing across the region as the consultation draws to a close."

Northern Rail commercial director Richard Allan said: "The majority of customers who travel at peak times, such as those with season tickets, will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening.

"We have consulted extensively with local stakeholders and with Passenger Focus on the detail of this change, which is part of our new franchise agreement that was announced in March."

Full details of the changes are available on the Northern Rail website (northernrail.org/off-peak) or by speaking to station staff. These changes apply to all rail services, not just those operated by Northern, on these routes and between these times.

Northern expects some customers who use off-peak tickets will change their travel times, but others will buy a different ticket to travel at peak time.

Regular travellers could benefit from season tickets, which can be purchased for a week, month or year and offer significant discounts, says Northern.

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