Commuters ditch rip-off railways


Fed up with delays, overcrowding and rising ticket prices, more and more people are turning their back on train travel, according to figures from the government rail watchdog.

There were five million fewer train journeys in the first three months of this year compared to 2012 - the first fall in three years.

The figures suggest that the latest round of fare hikes, which increased journey prices by an average 4.2% from January, have finally forced many disgruntled passengers to ditch Britain's abysmal train service.

The new figures from watchdog, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), show that between January and March this year some 381.4 million journeys were made on franchised routes.

Regional train operators witnessed a 3.2% drop - from 87.2 million to 84.4 million, while long distance journeys fell 2.5% - from 31.9 million to 31.1 million.

Late again
The figures follow a critical report of Network Rail by the ORR revealing that the firm missed all of its punctuality targets across England and Wales.

Network Rail was blamed for 61% of all trains running late over the last year and faces a £75million fine.

In a row between the regulator and Network Rail last week, the firm was ordered to not only meet new punctuality targets – but also to save £2bn from its five year spending plans.

The regulator also said it will expect higher standards of management of the network's infrastructure as well as improved safety for passengers and railway workers.

The ORR said that savings on spending for the period could be achieved ''through the implementation of new technologies, better management of the railways and more efficient ways of working''.

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Passenger pocket
While the ORR piles on the pressure for Network Rail to improve services, campaign groups are urging for action on fares.

Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "There is a clear implication in the ORR's report that it is time for the Government to use these savings to end above inflation fare rises.

"Ministers have promised to end such rises when cost savings are identified – the ORR has provided the evidence, now Ministers must act."

Sky-high fares are pricing thousands of commuters off the railways altogether, with many forced to consider cheaper alternatives such as car sharing or arranging flexible working from home.

Season ticket prices have risen by as much as 50% in the past decade, according to Passenger Focus, accounting for up to 23% of gross salaries.

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