Commuter groups slam rail fare hike

A train in Bicester North Station.Chiltern Railways
A train in Bicester North Station.Chiltern Railways

A GROUP representing Bicester commuters fears passengers will have no choice but to pay above-inflation fare increases revealed on Tuesday.

An increase of 3.2 per cent in the Retail Price Index (RPI), used to calculate train fares, was announced last month.

Rail users in England face fare increases of that figure plus a further three per cent from January 1, it was revealed on Tuesday.

Regulated fares – which include rush-hour commuter travel – will only be allowed to rise by 6.2 per cent. But some other fares could rise by up to 11.2 per cent.

Dr Ian East, chairman of the Oxford-Bicester Rail Action Group, said: “I don’t think this will price people off the railways, because 
between Bicester and Oxford there’s not an awful lot of choice.

“The railway avoids the unpredictability of the A34, and will 
retain that advantage.

“There are very few people who use the trains who will have their own parking spaces.

“We are unhappy about the rise in fares, and our members are far from happy.”

Dr East added: “The alternatives to rail are getting more expensive every year, specifically parking spaces in town.

“People are getting squeezed, and have very little choice but to pay up.

“We will be very interested to know what the rises will be.”

He added: “Commuting from Bicester to Oxford is not like commuting to London. Those people will be hit a lot harder.

“But we do not welcome the fare increases, as they are already the highest in Europe.”

Chris Wright, of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Rail Action Committee, said rail passengers will be paying for future improvements to the rail network, including the recently-announced East West Rail Link.

He added: “It’s an interesting debate about how much rail 
users should be paying, but if you’re wanting to encourage people to leave their cars at home, you risk pricing them out.

“In the present climate, I don’t think this is going to be welcome.”

Following the RPI increase, Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies said: “The government decides the average increase of commuter ticket prices and other regulated fares which train companies will be required to introduce in January 2013.

“It has been government policy during the past eight years for passengers to pay a larger share of the cost of operating the railways and to focus taxpayers’ money on investing in longer term improvements to the network. Any flexibility train companies have within the rules is to maximise revenue for the government.”