Cornwall MPs slam ‘railway robbery’

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Hard pressed rail passengers across the south west are being hit by 20% fare hikes from September 6, in a move by First Great Western condemned by Cornish MPs as “railway robbery”.

The shock price rises are a result of First Group’s decision to further restrict availability of their cheaper rail fares.

From September 6 the current cheapest rail ticket – ‘Off Peak’ – will be up to 20% more expensive. Whilst a new cheaper ‘Super Off-Peak’ ticket will be introduced at the current price of ordinary off-peak, these tickets will have much tighter time restrictions. Advance purchase tickets bought at the ticket office will also see a big price increase, of 11% – at a time when the retail price index is falling.

Commenting on the news, Matthew Taylor, MP for Truro and St Austell said: “First Great Western have now made it even more restrictive – and complicated – for passengers to get the cheapest fares for their journey.

“Even more limited travel times will hit people wanting to take long distance journeys especially hard, so Cornwall is especially badly affected. It is now simply impossible for someone from Cornwall to have a day in London by rail without paying huge amounts for their train tickets, or staying overnight. At a time when everyone else is tightening their belts in the credit crunch, and most businesses are having to cut prices, what possible excuse is there for this move. Conservative rail privatisation has already proved ill-judged, now it is clearly a costly mistake.”

The Cornish MPs have written to the rail regulator and to First Group to challenge the increases. Commenting on their last ditch effort to get a re-think, MP for South East Cornwall Colin Breed said:

“The reintroduction of different tickets will increase confusion at the station, at a time when people need to be encouraged to take the train, not put off. Many people still rely on the ticket office to make a purchase, and the 11% increase discriminates against those without internet access.

“It does not make economic sense for train fares to be so much more expensive than the equivalent journey by car. First Great Western has made a lot of progress in the last few months in quality and service – this rise could jeopardise that progress. It is very disappointing.”

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