THERE was fury today after Wigan’s suburban train company confirmed hundreds of passengers face massive fare hikes.
Northern Rail, which provides trains between Wigan and Manchester, Warrington, Bolton and Southport, is controversially axing discounted tickets for peak time during weekday evenings from Monday September 8 after receiving approval for the controversial move from the Government.
It will mean Wigan Wallgate/Manchester passengers facing a £2 rise, increasing the price of the journey by a third.
Passengers who currently use off-peak-priced tickets during the evening rush will either have to travel earlier or later, or buy a more expensive “anytime” ticket.
Commercial director of Northern Rail Richard Allan claimed the majority of customers who travel at peak times would be “unaffected” by the changes because of season tickets.
But one objective is clearly to reverse growing train use because he also claimed that the change will mean passengers prepared to pay the higher fares will soon find their trains “less crowded”.
Mr Allan said: “We have consulted extensively with local stakeholders and with Passenger Focus on the detail of this change, which is part of our new franchise agreement that was announced in March.”
But former train driver Coun John Hilton said the move would strengthen calls for the railway system to be re-nationalised.
He said: “This is just a taste of things to come for Wigan for passengers when the new franchise is introduced. The arbitrary hours when off-peak tickets are not going to be allowed is a real blunt instrument and there are going to be a lot os users.
“It’s going to make Northern Rail a lot more money and is a devious way of reducing overcrowding. Rather than invest in more carriages they are going to scare off people from using the trains at certain times instead.”
Wigan spokesman for the railway union RMT Steve Shaw said the Government and train bosses at Northern Rail were colluding to boost profits in a “kick in the teeth” for Wigan rail passengers.
The union said that hiking fares fits with future plans for Northern which are currently out to consultation and only set to close next week, already sparking a widespread high-profile protest campaign.
He said: “The core of the Government’s future plans for Northern is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate.”
He said the union would now step up the fight both to inform the passengers and fight the “savage cuts”.
Northern Rail’s announcement means that from September 8, Wigan passengers will find that Off-Peak Day, GM Rail Ranger, Daysaver tickets (train and Metro, train and bus and train, bus, Metro tickets) will no longer be valid on weekdays on any services within Greater Manchester area and “some” associated routes between 4pm and 6.30pm.