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Inflation busting fare hikes on track for Sussex commuters
COMMUTERS across the county face a massive hike in rail fares from January.
The Government has said it is committed to rail fare rises of 3% plus inflation.
It means that rail fares are set to increase by 6% on average – adding more than £200 to the cost of an annual season ticket from Brighton to London Victoria.
Train operators have ruled out a campaign to persuade the Government to limit the rise to 1% despite acknowledging the harm that annual increases cause them.
An internal memo drawn up by the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), leaked to the Guardian newspaper, looked at the possibility of calling for the retention of the 1% increase, including a plan to use a media advertising campaign to back up the case.
The memo said that calling for a 1% plus inflation increase would “undermine the perception that train companies want ever higher fare rises to boost profits”.
It said that a campaign would “position ourselves on the side of the passengers” and “highlight the role the government plays in setting fares”.
But the document admits that going public could “irritate ministers” by appearing to side with campaigners against the Government. Yesterday a spokesman for Atoc ruled out a campaign to change the Government’s course.
He said: “This is a decision for the Government to take. We have not lobbied them to reduce the increase to inflation plus 1% and we will not do so.”
Shelley Atlas, from the Brighton Line Commuters action group, said: “We are not given the detail about what the money is spent on so we just have to take it on trust that the money is well spent. They need to tell people why they are making such steep rises.”
Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove, said there should be no more above-inflation rises. He said: “For years we have had a situation where rail fares are rising at a rate that people aren’t prepared for.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The current agreed regulated fares policy is as set out in the 2011 Comprehensive Spending Review – a rise in 2012 of RPI+1% and RPI+3% for 2013 and 2014, returning to RPI+1% thereafter.
“Revenue from fares is helping to deliver one of the biggest programmes of rail capacity improvements since the Victorian era, which will benefit passengers and stimulate economic growth – this includes 2,700 new carriages, a £900 million electrification programme and the delivery of major projects like Crossrail.”