Updated: Sunday, 25th June 2017 @ 7:56am

'20% increase in 4 months is simply not on!': Lib Dem Andy Kelly wants halt to 'rail rip off'

'20% increase in 4 months is simply not on!': Lib Dem Andy Kelly wants halt to 'rail rip off'

| By Naomi Loh-Baxter and Sam McKeown

UK rail commuters are furious after seeing rail prices soar, meaning the average person is paying over £120 extra a year.

Rail commuters within Greater Manchester have seen an increase of up to 21 percent in off-peak fares, after a second price rise in just four months due to unregulated train tickets outside the scope of government.

As a response to this “rail rip off”, Rochdale Liberal Democrat Councillor Andy Kelly will be asking passengers at Rochdale, Stalybridge and Littleborough Railway Stations to sign a petition to Northern Rail calling for an assurance that there will be no fare increase until at least 2018.

MM spoke to Mr Kelly about the financial implications of rising train fares, the equivalent to eight years’ worth of rises for the regulated peak fares – hitting the poorest the hardest.

Mr Kelly called it a “tax by stealth” and said: “People begrudgingly accept that there’s going to be a rise in train fares, but I think people are beginning to say ‘hang on a minute what is going on?’

“20 percent increase in four months is not on. I want assurances from Northern Rail that there isn’t going to be another price increase.”

MM then asked the effects of the price increase on a regional scale and whether the 2.3% increase decision is justifiable – a number that far outstrips the inflation of 0.9%.

He said: “I agree the funding is going to have to come from somewhere, but I’m not convinced the increase should have been taken up to 2.3%.

“What we need is to see a vast improvement with the service by Northern Rail.

“The North-West railway has to be sorted out from the bottom up, especially North Manchester.

“When we speak about HS3, the meta-question is, will its introduction have any consideration for places like Bury, Oldham and Rochdale? I don’t think it will.

“We [Rochdale] still aren’t properly linked to the rest of the northern network hubs such as Manchester Piccadilly, which has an infrastructure that only really covers South Manchester.”

Mr Kelly then spoke specifically about Rochdale’s station Smithy Bridge and how cancelled trains are a common theme resulting with the next train providing an unacceptable service for commuters due to the platform reaching full capacity.

“When cancellations happen, the rail commuters aren’t getting their money’s worth after paying the 20% increase,” Andy said.

And this is happening all over the North West.

Glossop commuter, Stephanie Haslam, said: “I get a morning train from Hadfield to Manchester every day and even after the price increase my train is still late.

“I rarely get a seat and sometimes we’re squashed in a carriage like sardines!

“Over the winter season, cancelled trains were regular – I just don’t know where my money’s going!”

As well as rail punctuality, quality has been a main issue for commuters, a statement Mr Kelly agreed with.

“It seems the main concern of most people is the quality of the journey and the fact that Northern Rail have 30-year-old rolling stock. So, commuters will want to travel in modern carriages that provide a quality service and don’t have broken heaters,” Mr Kelly said.

MM concluded by asking Mr Kelly whether he can see another spike in fare prices and to sum up why he feels that this petition is important and what he hopes to achieve from it.

He said: “No, but what I’d like to see is a freeze in price for at least 12 to 18 months.

“And do I really have a problem with fares going up due to inflation? No, I don’t, because that’s being realistic.

“What I want from Northern Rail is a vast improvement to what we’re getting, along with a quality and reliable service that gets people to and from work without the hassle and inconsistency that has plagued our railways for many years now.”

The Northern franchise is one of the largest in the UK, providing more than 16,000 train services each week to 15 million people. However, in a customer satisfaction survey a quarter of respondents said services are poor value for money and commuters were generally less satisfied with their service.

To sign online - please go to https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-rail-fares-rip-off

Image courtesy of Jeremy Segrott via Flickr, with thanks.