Following on from the revelation that regulated rail fares are due to rise by 3.5 per cent in January next year, East Sussex Rail Alliance groups are delighted that the Chancellor George Osborne has put a freeze on any increase. For rail user groups lobbying the Government and led by the County’s Members of Parliament, and especially by Hastings and Rye constituency by Amber Rudd MP, this is an important milestone as the County’s rail travellers were expected to face another 3.5 per cent rise in fares.
“While we all recognise that the railway needs increasing investment to overcome the massive backlog of maintenance to bring them up to scratch, and fares from passengers are the major source of funding, we have all been put under tremendous financial pressure at home — and we need this real help,” says Belinda Fordham. “Representing some 50,000 regular commuters and other rail users of the railway, our groups are very much relieved at this immediate Government assistance.”
Under the formula, agreed by Government to assist Train Operators and Network Rail to plan their business and funding, average fares in England are enabled to follow the RPI measure of inflation, plus 1 per cent. RPI — the Retail Prices Index — was 2.5% in July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Regulated fares, capped by the Government, include longer-distance, off-peak fares, such as from and to the Capital from the South Coast Cities and towns. Currently Government provides a tax payer subsidy of 0.6 pence per passenger-mile on Southern Trains and 12.4 pence ppm on South Eastern trains.
“Today the Government has quickly responded by a freeze on train fares. This will be a major relief for passengers much affected by the current economic challenges,” co-Founders Ray Chapman and Belinda Fordham of East Sussex Rail Alliance said. “While we recognise that rail needs much more investment to develop the rail system to meet the rising demand, this is the not a great time for train fares to be increasing and when so many are struggling with the cost of living and reduction in purchasing power.”
Belinda Fordham added this response: “The news of a ticket price freeze is a great boost to our rail travellers. Along with our local MPs we have pressed the Government to look at using the powers they already have over regulated fares to insist on a further one-year price freeze. That battle has been won. This is useful compensation for those in East Sussex and particularly in Rye, Eastbourne, St Leonards, Bexhill, Hastings and Brighton who have suffered the recent winter hardships and massive disruptions to their travel due to extremes of weather.”