Call to slash higher fares
A LOCAL pressure group has hit out at the latest hike in rail ticket prices due to come into effect next week.
First Great Western have said that all prices are due to increase by an average of 3.1 per cent from January 3.
Following an announcement bay the Chancellor in the autumn statement, the price rise will not be greater than inflation for the first time in a decade, but Fair Fares 4 Swindon have said local commuters are being unfairly hit. The local group is calling for an overall reduction in ticket prices.
They argue that prices from Swindon to London are already significantly higher than many other commuter towns, so the 3.1 per cent represents more for the town.
Eastcott resident Chris Watts, 46, speaking for the pressure group, said: “People travelling from Swindon to London have to pay nearly £8,500 for a season ticket, which is almost twice that of places like Southampton or Peterborough.
“Therefore the rise will represent more to travellers in Swindon than it will to many others.
“It is hitting the pockets of people who need to use the railway during what are already tough times.”
Chris also believes that the high prices are influencing the decisions of businesses who may want to set up in Swindon.
He said: “When companies are looking at somewhere to invest, the price of train fares is certainly a factor that they consider.
“I have been to council meetings where this has been acknowledged and Swindon has a big black cross next to it over this issue.”
But the train company have said the rise has been kept to a minimum with the extra money raised being used to improve the network as a whole.
Prior to the autumn statement, rail prices were set at the Retail Price Index plus a percentage added by the Government. It has now been changed to match inflation.
A spokesman for the rail company said: “At First Great Western we are delighted we have been able to keep all of fares at the Government set target of 3.1 per cent.
“This money goes back to the Government who then put it back to improving the system and while we realise these are hard times for customers, the money should go into real improvements for rail users.”
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