Give North control of its destiny to go with rising rail fares, leaders tell Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

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Forcing long-suffering northern rail passengers to pay more for poor service is 'untenable', Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was warned today amid anger over the latest annual rise in fares.

It was announced this morning that the cost of regulated rail fares, which includes season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and Anytime tickets around major cities, will increase by 3.2 per cent.

The hike will see annual passes from Brighton to London cost £4,846 (up £150) and Liverpool to Manchester setting workers back £3,253 (up £101).

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According to Labour, a season ticket between Hull and Leeds will have risen by £982, an increase of 29 per cent, between 2010 and 2019, and a year’s worth of travel between Leeds and York will have risen by 36 per cent after yesterday’s announcement, from £1,756 to £2,312.

The announcement came as unions pledged to press ahead with above-inflation pay claims amid growing anger at a call by the Transport Secretary for lower wage rises.

Chris Grayling wrote to union general secretaries on Tuesday, stating he wants to “see lower levels of increase for passengers in future” by using the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figure, rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI). But he suggested this can only happen if pay rises are also based on CPI.

There have been calls by Labour politicians for fares to be frozen for passengers in the North following chaos caused by the implementation of new timetables in May. Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Like all commuters, those running small businesses, their customers and staff are hugely impacted by the chaos of delays, overcrowding and cancelled trains.

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“As fares increase once again, those using train services will be looking to rail companies to show that the money raised from the price hikes is being used to improve their journeys.”

Protesters dress up as Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a protest at rising rail fares.Protesters dress up as Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a protest at rising rail fares.
Protesters dress up as Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a protest at rising rail fares.

Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which represents civic and business leaders, said there was “a strong case that commuters wages and fare levels have fallen out of step nationally”. He added: “Basically, the ongoing costs to passengers and the economy need to be brought under control.

“If the Transport Secretary presses ahead and dosen’t intervene to stop this fare increase, he needs to give the North control over our own destiny with short term measures and longer term devolution on infrastructure improvements for those schemes the Treasury will fund and full franchise control. To pay more for poor service is untenable.”

Luke Raikes, Senior Research Fellow at think-tank IPPR North, said: “The Transport Secretary expects Northerners to dig deeper into their own pockets for the railways, but still refuses to do so himself by investing in the North’s infrastructure.”

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Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road said regulated fares went up by an average of 3.3 per cent in January 2018, following the July 2017 RPI figure of 3.6 per cent.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the railway, said: “Fares are underpinning a once-in-a-generation investment plan to improve the railway and politicians effectively determine that season ticket prices should change in line with other day-to-day costs to help fund this.”

But Pressure group Railfuture claimed train passengers are being treated like “second-class citizens compared to motorists”.

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