MP warns East Coast fare rises will hit hard pressed families

Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell warms rise in East Coast rail fares will make life hard for many North East families

Martin Keene/PA Wire Nine out of 10 trains must run on time starting from spring next year
East Coast announced its prices for 2014

Commuters face a 3.1% rise in travel costs if heading to Durham, York, Leeds, Edinburgh or London after East Coast announced its prices for 2014.

The publicly-owned operator will up its prices from January 2 – but claimed a freeze on some unregulated fares means it is doing its bit for hard pressed families.

“We’re freezing fares to help our customers and encourage more people to travel with us,” East Coast managing director Karen Boswell.

“This will help us to continue to grow our business, and to give back even more to the taxpayer.

“This is a straightforward commercial decision which is very good news for our customers and businesses across our route.

“It will also help East Coast to sustain our strong advantage in a highly-competitive travel market.

“When you take into account the rate of inflation, today’s announcement represents a genuine real terms cut in our overall fares. We believe this will attract more people to our trains, and help to maximise revenue.

“It will also help businesses and hard-working people by holding down the cost of travel for many.

“As one of the leading long-distance train operators, we’re doing our bit to help businesses grow, and that has to be welcome news for jobs and investment in the regions we serve throughout Britain.”

While welcoming the partial freeze, Newcastle MP said the season ticket rises risked making life for hard pressed families even harder.

MP Catherine McKinnell
MP Catherine McKinnell
 

“East Coast’s decision to freeze prices on some tickets, with below-inflation increases on others, will certainly be welcomed by the commuters who are set to benefit,” Ms McKinnell said.

“However, with families clearly struggling at the moment after months of stagnating wages and rising prices causing a cost of living crisis, the increase of 3.1% on season tickets will still further stretch household budgets.”

Season ticket-holders nationwide had been facing average rises of 4.1% from January 2014, with companies allowed to put up some regulated fares by as much 5% above the 4.3% figure as long as the overall average was no more than 4.1%

But first the Government announced that this flexibility, instead of being extended to 5%, could only be extended to 2%.

And then in his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the January 2014 average regulated fare rise would be reduced from 4.1% to 3.1%.

The reduction announcement has meant that season ticket-holders, who normally get news of their annual fare rise around early December, have had to wait longer this year before learning how much they will have to fork out for their travel in 2014.

TSSA transport union leader Manuel Cortes said: “This is good news for passengers on the East Coast line after eight years of inflation-plus fare increases.

“This should be a benchmark for the rest of the industry. If the East Coast can do it, then so can Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson (on the West Coast line) and other firms who have made massive profits down the years from ripping off passengers.

“We would like to see all fares frozen because they have more than doubled since privatisation 20 years ago.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer