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Villiers: 8% rail fare rise "essential"

By Joseph Willits 
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VILLIERS THERESA NW The coalition government is set to increase rail fares by an average of 8%.  For the first time, fares will go up by an additional 3% above the Retail Price Index (RPI).  

The July figure for RPI was 5%, but until 2014, the increase of 3% will remain.

The 8% increase on rail fares is an average, which could mean that some passengers will face an increase of up to 10%, and others around 5 or 6%.  Railway fares most likely to be affected would be season tickets and off peak returns.

Earlier today, rail analyst Christian Wolmar suggested the fare hike would “drive people away" from the railways, in particular season ticket holders who contribute most”  in terms of congestion.  Wolmar also said that both this coalition and the previous Labour government had ““shift[ed] the burden more on the passengers”

But Theresa Villiers MP, the rail Minister, said on Radio 4's Today programme, that the fare increase was essential for urgent “rail upgrades and capacity improvements”, describing them as the “biggest since the Victorian era”.   She said that with huge rail projects such as CrossRail, Thames Link, and an additional 2700 carriages on Britain’s railways, the fare increase is "essential".

The Rail Minister admitted that all this represents  a “tough decision” but reiterated that the fare increase would enable the government  “to deliver [a] major programme of rail improvements and at the same time deal with [the] deficit left by [the] former government”.

In the long run, the aim of the fare increase is “to bring the overall cost of the railways down” according to Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond MP. “We have already begun work on this with the [Sir Roy] McNulty Review [of rail costs] and we are determined to succeed” he said.

"Better value for money on the railway will deliver a better deal for taxpayers and fare payers alike and will allow us to put the era of above inflation rises in regulated fares behind us."

A protest was held outside London Waterloo station by Fair Fares Now campaigners, led by the Campaign for Better Transport.  They were joined by Shadow Treasury Chief, Maria Eagle MP.

Perhaps one of the most crucial questions rail passengers are asking, however, is will rail services actually be improved?  Villiers claimed that the rise is “going to enable us to deliver better railways”.  Time will tell whether rail services will be improved - but it's unclear how soon change for the better will be delivered.  And those those implementing the increase don't seem to be sure either.


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