Transport chiefs promise better service as ticket costs rise

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A RAIL company says annual ticket increases will be ploughed back into giving travellers a better service.

Journeys on Northern Rail services, which cover an area with a population of 15 million people, will cost an average of 2.3 per cent more this year.

The company says the extra income will be invested in better trains, stations and services.

It is just above the national average increase of 2.2 per cent.

But campaign groups and unions have criticised increases for being higher than wage rises.

Northern Rail runs services across the north including from Hartlepool to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, and Sunderland and the Metro Centre.

The increases came into effect on Friday.

A Northern Rail spokesperson said: “UK rail fares will rise by an average of 2.2 per cent.

“This is the equivalent of around 10-20p per single journey on the Northern network.

“Money raised through fares goes on to invest in improvements to stations, trains and services.

“This includes investment in routes across the north which leads to newer trains and faster journey times.

“Our customers will also benefit from improved communication at stations, more ticket buying opportunities and upgraded facilities including the first on-train Wi-Fi project in West Yorkshire.

“During this short franchise, over £6m will be invested to improve facilities for our customers.

“We will, as always, continue to work with the Government and the wider rail industry to drive down the cost of running the railway so it can provide long-term value for money for passengers and taxpayers.”

But critics say the rises in fares have far outstripped the rises in wages and that Britain has some of the highest rail fares in Europe.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This year’s fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly.

“Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses.

“On average passengers are now paying £600 more for a season ticket and yet seeing no change in their pay packets.”

But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation since the Victorian era and fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements.

“This is because building better infrastructure helps create jobs, building a stronger economy for us all.”