WIGAN rail users were today facing an incredible 117 per cent increase if they want to travel by train to Manchester.
Commuters buying a return ticket from Wigan Wallgate to Manchester Picadilly yesterday discovered the price has increased from £4.20 to £9.10 during off-peak hours.
Unions and campaigners today described the price hike is a “kick in the teeth for the travelling public” and a “taste of what’s around the corner under the new franchises.”
The fare increase came into force as the Government forced Northern Rail to introduce evening peak ticket restrictions on local services. This is to plug the gap caused by the cost to the taxpayer of the West Coast franchise saga in 2012.
Off-peak tickets will no longer be valid on some trains between 4.01pm and 6.29pm on weekdays, which means sharp increases in some fares.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) attacked the Northern rises, saying they would particularly hit part-time and shift workers.
CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “This fare increase threatens to make rail travel unaffordable to tens of thousands of part-time workers.
“Despite Government promises, there are no flexible tickets for the increasing numbers who work part time or anything other than traditional nine-to-five hours.
“Their only option is to pay for individual tickets, which will now be double the price on Northern Rail’s most popular routes.”
Yesterday morning a protest was held at Wigan Wallgate over the decision. The RMT handed out postcards to commuters during the morning rush hour voicing their displeasure at the price hike.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity.”
Northern said the fare changes were being made after the Department for Transport asked the company to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its current franchise agreement.
The company said it had heavily publicised the fare changes.
Northern Rail commercial director Richard Allan said: “The majority of customers who travel at peak times will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening and what options are available to them.”
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “These changes will help us achieve our long-term plan of building a rail network that is better for the passenger and better value for the taxpayer.
“Such restrictions are relatively common on other parts of the network, including in the Merseytravel area, and we expect only a minority of passengers to be affected.”