RAIL fares are set to rise by 4.1 per cent in January 2014, increasing at nearly twice the rate of average incomes.
The Trade Union Congress announced that rail fares will have risen by 40 per cent since 2008.
It is running an Action For Rail campaign to protest against the price increases, saying: “Transport watchdog Passenger Focus surveys show that less than half of rail passengers think that the service provides value for money.”
John Gulliver, from the North Devon Public Transport Users group, said: “North Devon is a relatively low wage economy. Any increase in the cost of travel, especially when it is above the inflation rate, hits people hard.”
Despite this, the number of rail passenger journeys has risen from 750 million per year to 1.5 billion according to Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary.
The Office of Rail Regulations has released figures suggesting that usage of the Barnstaple-Exeter line is also increasing.
Use of stations such as Umberleigh and Kings Nympton has gone up in the last few years. However, Mr Gulliver said: “Kings Nympton is served by few trains and sees relatively few passengers. Just one extra per day is almost enough to account for the 17 per cent rise.
Concerning the proposed fare increases, he said: “Good public transport benefits all of us, whether we use it directly or not. Anything that makes it less attractive to users undermines it.
“Raising fares beyond the level of inflation does just that. We do not support it.”
“On the Exeter-Barnstaple line, the discomfort and occasional overcrowding of many trains, and the slowness of the journey overall, seriously undermine value for money provided by fares alone.”
TUC secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A season ticket from Exeter to Barnstaple is set to cost more than £1,300 a year, despite costing less than £1,000 just six years ago.
“In return for higher fares, commuters can expect the same old crowded trains. Meanwhile private rail companies continue to make hundreds of millions of pounds in profit.
“Publicly owned train companies across Europe already offer cheaper fares and better services than in the UK. It’s time our rail system returned to public ownership.”
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