Lancashire transport campaigners have poured cold water on news that rail fair rises for season ticket holders have been reduced.
Aidan Turner-Bishop of Campaign for Better Transport Lancashire, said Chancellor George Osbourne’s statement that the January increase will average 3.1 per cent rather than the planned 4.1 per cent, was “like being hit on the head with a spanner three times rather than four.”
Mr Turner-Bishop said: “This is still going to hit the season ticket holder in the pocket, and it’s quite deliberate.
“By making rail travel more expensive, it will force people off trains and onto already-crowded roads.
“This is the intention of the Government - they want to control the capacity on networks so they don’t have to pay for more carriages or infrastructure.”
He added: “This is all political, but no good for the worker stood on Preston station.
“What we need is more investment in our local train service, as it is a shadow of what it is down south.”
Mr Osborne said that his decision would benefit more than 250,000 annual season ticket holders who will, on average in 2014, save £25.
However, train companies will still be allowed to put some regulated fares up by a limit of 2 per cent above the Retail Price Index (RPI) cap - so as much as 5.1 per cent - as long as the average rise is no more than 3.1 per cent.
National transport organisations have cautiously welcomed the move, but worry that the fare rises are still outstripping pay rises for many rail commuters.
A spokesperson for the national Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Ticket prices will still rise three times faster than wages and above-inflation rises are still on the cards for 2015 and beyond.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, welcomed the decision, adding that he now wanted to “see an end to annual fare hikes altogether with a freeze in 2015”.
Michael Roberts, director general of rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group said the decision was “good news for commuters” and would encourage more passengers to travel by rail.
David Sidebottom, director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “This brings an end to a decade of inflation-busting fare rises and will be welcome news to passengers in England, especially those who rely on the train for work.”
Normally, passengers would have expected to learn round about this week exactly what their season ticket rise for January was going to be.
But train companies will now re-price the 2014 fares, promising they will be available by January 2 when they take effect.