The rail industry has revealed that train fares will rise this month by 3.1 per cent.
The latest failure in the nation’s rail infrastructure wrecked the journeys of tens of thousands of passengers on East Midlands Trains, and many more on the Thameslink route through central London – who also had to contend with disruption caused by the 12.52pm from St Albans to Sutton “blocking platform one at London Blackfriars for approximately 20 minutes”.
Passengers on Thameslink, along with Northern Rail in northwest England, bore the brunt of the botched introduction of new timetables in May, which caused the cancellation of 5,000 trains.
Yet the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) insisted: “While further improvement is always needed, services are far better than they were 20 years ago.”
In an online “explainer” about rail fares, the organisation representing train operators and Network Rail said: “Local communities are enjoying over 600 revitalised stations. We are running 4,000 more trains every day – an increase of almost a third.”
The travelling public seem unconvinced. Three out of five of the 325 self-selecting respondents to a one-hour Twitter poll conducted for The Independent said services were no better than 20 years ago.
Of the remainder, almost half said that while some services had improved, theirs had not.
The response on social media to news of the January fares rise – and the rail industry’s assertion of services being “far better” – was overwhelmingly scathing.
Mike Alcock tweeted: “Getting better? It is not. GTR [Govia Thameslink Railway] are an absolute shambles. Being charged even more for a terrible service is a complete p*** take.”
A Northern Rail commuter, “Sammy P”, tweeted: “I’ve been commuting into Manchester from Horwich now for nearly 10 years. My first monthly ticket cost £70. It is now £104.
Rail passengers reliant on the Northern franchise in northwest England are preparing for the latest strike by members of the RMT union.
A dispute over driver-only operation has dragged on for much of the year. Stoppages are planned for every Saturday in December.
It briefly appeared that some progress was possible after the train operator invited the RMT to talks at the government body ACAS.
But Northern refused to accede to the union’s demand of “an absolute guarantee that no trains will run without the second member of staff on board”.
The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said the strike would go ahead. Seven out of 10 Northern services on 1 December will be cancelled.
Mr Cash also weighed in on the fare rise announcement, saying: “The only solution to Britain’s rail fare rip-off is a publicly owned railway run solely in the public interest free from the greed of the private train companies.”
Photo Credit: Richard Graham