Rail fare increases in the North West are under fire, being branded a ‘rip off’ by Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams after changes were introduced last Friday.
Ms Abrahams laid into David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats for ‘allowing train companies to hit commuters across the region with these huge increases in fares since they took office together’.
She added: “The Government’s rhetoric about improving connectivity across the north, and creating a world-class rail network, is not matched by their actions.
“And when ministers talk about ‘fair fares for comfortable commuting’ it’s just insulting. They must live a world away from the reality facing millions of rail users every day.”
Ms Abrahams also condemned the end of the evening off-peak fares at Greenfield station in Oldham and the decision to ‘modernise’ rather than replace the 30-year-old Pacer trains on the Northern lines.
Commuters have seen the price of rail tickets rise by more than 20% on average since 2010 and are now spending 17% of their wages on travel, according to campaigners – that makes British rail journeys the most expensive in Europe.
But a statement from Northern Rail said the ‘money raised through fares goes on to be invested in improvements to stations, trains and services’.
Putting this money back into ‘routes across the north leads to newer trains and faster journey times’, according to Northern Rail.
They added: “We will, as always, continue to work with the Government and the wider rail industry to drive down the cost of running the railway so it can provide long-term value for money, for passengers and taxpayers.”
The changes are clearly needed as members of the public regularly voice their disdain of Northern Rail services on social media.
every time i hand over more money to northern rail a small part of me dies, ludicrously expensive
— will (@xPalmerrrrr) December 31, 2014
It now costs an extra 20p for me to travel to Manchester each morning, making it a whopping £9 return. Daylight robbery, @northernrailorg
— Jenny (@QueenOfTheSonic) January 6, 2015
— Bingley Life (@bingleylife) December 31, 2014
The 2.2% increase, which came into effect on January 5 this year, is likely to go up to 2.5% for regulated fares, meaning some people will end up paying £5,000 plus for their annual season ticket.
Under the current government, the rising cost of using the railways is not matched by an increase in salaries and Ms Abrahams believes that Ed Milliband is the answer.
“Labour will give passengers a voice about how the railways are run and stop passengers getting fleeced at ticket machines by making it a legal right for passengers to be sold the cheapest available ticket for their journey,” she said.
“The Tories and Lib Dems have simply failed to stand up for the working people of Oldham, Saddleworth, and the North West region, who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.”
Despite Northern Rail saying they will invest over £6million in improving facilities, Ms Abrahams is unsure whether that money will make a difference.
She added: “We’ve seen a pitifully low level of investment in the rail system across the North so I share my constituents’ concerns that this extra revenue will end up in the pockets of shareholders rather than being ploughed into improvements in local rail services.”
Image courtesy of Amnesty International, with thanks.