Anger over rail fare rise

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A RAILWAY users group has blasted the new year hike in Wigan train fares.

Independent passenger champion TravelWatch North West’s (TWNW) Chris Dale said that a time when people were struggling with rising costs and static income, the average 4.2 per cent increases won’t encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport.

And Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue today accused the Prime Minister of misleading rail users by allowing the rise.

But the Transport Minister Norman Baker insisted the Government had intervened to peg the level of ticket price increases.

TWNW Chairman Mr Dale said: “Recent investment and improvements to rail services in the region have not been significant and we are still running trains that have the highest average age in the country.

“Some are 25 years old ... and look like it.”

He pointed out that the fare hike follows hard on the rails of the announcement that Wigan and the North West are now set to receive a handful of second hand Diesel Multiple Units discarded from other parts of the country to boost transport services.

Mr Dale said that while these will provide a little more capacity to help relieve some of the “chronic overcrowding” that passengers experience daily, they are only a temporary fix and the passengers represented by his group were far from impressed.

But he hailed the news that Wiganers who commute into Liverpool will face a much lower fare increase due to a decision by Merseytravel to increase the level of subsidy to MerseyRail.

However Ms Fovargue said: “David Cameron misled commuters when he promised to cap fare rises at one per cent above inflation.

“Many commuters have face a nasty new year shock as they discover fares have gone up by this rate.

“The Government should come clean with commuters that this is a direct result of their decision to cave in to pressure from the private train companies to let them hike ticket prices beyond the so called cap and enforce the fare cap on every route.”

Wigan Council leader Lord Smith said: “With the squeeze on family incomes across the board, an above-inflation increase in fares will hit many Wigan people.”