Fare hikes defended

TRANSPORT chiefs have defended a rise in bus fares, saying it is a result of rising fuel taxes.

Stagecoach North East’s fares in Hartlepool are to rise by around seven per cent.

Single fares will increase by 6.8 per cent, with weekly fares going up by 6.7 per cent and a 7.5 hike for Dayrider tickets.

But bosses at the firm say rising costs and a 74 per cent Government increase in fuel tax on buses has forced up fares for passengers.

They add that the rises compare with a 14 per cent annual rise in the annual cost of motoring, according to figures from the RAC.

Stagecoach said that the Government’s 20 per cent cut in Bus Service Operators’ Grant from April 1, combined with the planned 3p fuel duty rise, would increase fuel tax on its bus passengers in England by 74 per cent, sucking more than £1.556m out of the local bus network in the North-East.

Stagecoach North East’s managing director John Conroy said: “These damaging Government cuts and tax hike, combined with rising costs, are having a direct impact on bus fares and services across England.

“We share the frustration of our passengers, many of whom are on some of the lowest incomes.

“We have had to take some very tough decisions, but we have worked hard to keep fares down for those who rely on the bus the most.”